Eagleton on Hitchens.

Oh man, this is tasty.

“Hypocritchens”, as he was known at Balliol, was suave, bright, fearless, loquacious, self-admiring and grotesquely ambitious.


This blend of self-vaunting and perfunctory self-deprecation is a common device in his prose, as he recounts some self-aggrandising moment from his career as a war journalist while insisting that he was shaking with fear at the time, or professes to be knocked back by discovering that the great Isaiah Berlin should prefer his humble company while he is still an Oxford student to that of “much more distinguished figures”.


What others would see as squalid social climbing, gross opportunism and a greedy desire to have it every possible way, he himself seems to regard as both clever and amusing.


It is as though he sees his own double-dealing as a rather agreeable versatility – as testimony to his myriad-mindedness rather than as a privileged, spoilt-brat desire (among other things) to hog it all. One is reminded of the scatty socialite in Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies who had heard talk of an Independent Labour Party and was furious that she had not been invited.

Hitchens Annoys the SSNP (That makes two of us)

But I don’t want to smack him around.  At least I don’t think so.  Really.  Regardless, this is an interesting story, perhaps as a lesson on how not to pick a fight, but it raises some interesting questions. So, while shopping for shoes on Hamra Street in Beirut (Hamra is a rather cosmopolitan district in Beirut), Christopher Hitchens managed to get his ass kicked by members of the Syrian Socialist National Party last month.   Why?  For defacing a SSNP sign.  The logo of the SSNP looks eerily like a swastika.  Michael Totten (who was with Hitchens) describes it:

The Syrian Social Nationalist Party flags had been taken down, but a commemorative marker was still there. It was made of metal and plastic and had the semi-permanence of an official “No Parking” sign. SSNP member Khaled Alwan shot two Israeli soldiers with a pistol in 1982 after they settled their bill at the now-defunct Wimpy café on that corner, and the sign marked the spot…Christopher wanted to pull down their marker, but couldn’t. He stuck to his principles, though, and before I could stop him he scribbled “No, no, F*** the SSNP” in the bottom-right corner with a black felt-tipped pen. I blinked several times. Was he really insulting the Syrian Social Nationalist Party while they might be watching? Neither Christopher nor Jonathan seemed to sense what was coming, but my own danger signals went haywire.

An angry young man shot across Hamra Street as though he’d been fired out of a cannon. “Hey!” he yelled as he pointed with one hand and speed-dialed for backup on his phone with the other. Continue reading