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Jul. 19 2010 - 12:31 pm | 606 views | 0 recommendations | 16 comments

Applying Christopher Hitchens’ Logic To Christopher Hitchens


Image by Getty Images Europe via @daylife

Christopher Hitchens has previously wished wasting diseases on his political opponents, so it’s hardly surprising that is he is now dancing in the streets over Mel Gibson’s self-immolation. Today in Slate, Hitchens asks, with palpable relish, “When will Hollywood, and the wider society, finally decide to shun and spurn him utterly, both for what he is and for what he represents?” – as if this isn’t already happening. (Gibson will soon be fleeing to Australia, if the Daily Mail is correct.) But disregard for a moment the lack of empathy for a fellow human in a state of emotional turmoil, evidenced by recent writings of Frank Rich, Hitchens, and a bevy of True/Slant commenters (message: I am fine with people suffering, so long as they are right-wing), and focus instead on the peculiar logic that Hitchens employs in his latest missive.

It is Gibson’s brand of conservative Catholicism that explains his latest tantrum, Hitchens would have us believe. “It would be highly surprising if a person marinated in the doctrines of this ideology did not display all sorts of symptoms that were also sexually distraught,” he writes today. Yet rather than focus on Gibson’s own views, he uses his column to instead focus on the beliefs of Gibson’s father. In a bizarre application of “the sins of the father” logic, Hitchens impugns Mel Gibson’s character by impugning Mel Gibson’s father’s character. Here is a representative paragraph:

This schismatic crackpot sect is headed by Mel Gibson’s father, Hutton Gibson, a nutty autodidact with a sideline in Holocaust denial. During the controversy over The Passion of the Christ, Gibson junior said that he had never heard anything but the truth from his father. I have some of old man Gibson’s books on my shelf, including his self-published classics Is the Pope Catholic? andThe Enemy Is Still Here!, which essentially accuse the current papacy of doing the work of the Antichrist. My favorite sample of his prose style is the following: “Our ‘civilization’ tolerates open sodomy and condones murder of the unborn, but shrinks in horror from burning incorrigible heretics—essentially a charitable act.” He attacks the late Pope John Paul II for having said, in one of his “outreaches” to the Jewish people, “You are our predilect brothers and, in a certain way, one could say our oldest brothers.” Hutton Gibson’s comment? “Abel had an older brother.” I don’t think that there’s much ambiguity there, do you? Like many ultra-conservative Catholics, the Gibsons, père et fils, have never forgiven the Vatican for lifting the charge of deicide against the Jews in 1964.

Fine: Gibson’s father is a grotesque figure. We can all agree on this point. But so what? It is absolutely preposterous to indict somebody based on the behavior of his parents. (This is what the North Korean government does; three generations are imprisoned based on the “criminal” act of one person.)  And who are we to demand that Gibson disown his own father? That is a heavy and unfair burden. But leave all that aside. Instead, let us apply a bit of Hitchens’ logic to himself.

Christopher Hitchens likes to boast of his anti-imperialist bona fides. He was a staunch opponent of the Vietnam War, just as he was a staunch opponent of Saddam’s annexation of Kuwait (well, not really, but he now likes to claim as much), and he abhors Turkey’s imperialist presence on the island of Cyprus. But Hitchens’ father (whom he fails to disown in his new memoir) was a servant of the British Empire, and a militarist: he was a Naval Officer. Indeed, Hitchens described his father in a 2007 C-Span interview as “imperialistic.” Yet that description was not followed by a breathless denunciation of his father’s immoral and imperialist actions. Thus, according to the Gibson Standard, Hitchens is an imperialist warmonger.

Christopher Hitchens may want to tread lightly on this subject. After all, if every child has to disown his parents because they are wrong, his nest is going to be very empty in the years ahead.


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  1. collapse expand

    The only thing I get out of this article is you don’t care much for C.H. Do you really believe that Mel’s religous upbringing is the same as CH’s fathers job as a naval officer? WTF?

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    For someone who calls his column RAZOR, you’re not too sharp. This whole exercise in gotcha is patheticly lame.
    Mel is on record as stating that Hutton Gibson, holocaust denier supreme, has never told him a lie. I have no idea what Commander Hitchens, who by all accounts was a conservative, very morally sound individual, who proudly served his country in the defeat of the Nazis Hutton Gibson appears to sympathize with, has to do with this conversation.
    Mel Gibson is a monster, who brutally attacked the mother of his infant child on more than one occasion. By his own words he is a racist and an anti-semite.
    For whatever reason, you may dislike Hitchens, but he is completely right in this case.

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      I don’t know about *completely* right.. saying once that your father has never lied to you isn’t quite the same thing as saying you wholly share his religious and ideological beliefs. It’s a pretty small hook to hang a rant of this weight on.

      That having been said, Gibson sure does seem to channel his dad’s beliefs once he’s had too many drinks. Does he hate women and harbor suspicions towards Jews when he’s in his right mind? That’s tougher to say.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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        I’m sorry if you’re one of those people who claimed that “The Passion” was one of the greatest movies ever made, and Mel was your hero. The guy is a racist, anti-semite monster. And he of course read his father’s ravings–without EVER repudiating them in public. On the contrary.

        Hitchens said when the Passion came out that it was a work of sadism. And who but a sadist is going to hit a woman WHO IS HOLDING HIS INFANT CHILD TWICE SO HARD THAT IT KNOCKS HER TEETH OUT. No, Mel is a sick sick person. Hitchens has had him pegged all along. So eat that crow, and admit, the Hitch is right.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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          If you want to engage in grown up debate, then you need to start acting like a grown up. That means: no making ludicrous assumptions about who you’re responding to, (and, as my posting history can prove, your assumptions were all wrong) no using mock outrage and red herrings to bluff your way through an argument, and no ‘neener neener’ concluding statements. If you’re ready to reply like an adult then I’d love to discuss this with you.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
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            Oh Please. Everything I wrote was fact. You are simply enamored with Mel because you feel like he holds up your evangelical world view against Hitchens’ anti-theism. Well guess what, Hitchens may not be a perfect person, but he is, unlike Mel, a decent and moral man.

            If you want to defend a woman beater who uses the N word freely and, just like his father, hates Jews, go right ahead. I would never try to keep such an unpleasant, arrogant person as yourself from making a complete ass of themselves.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
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            Your answer appears to be “No, I’m not ready to be a grown-up”. Carry on, then.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
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    One would think that Hitchens would have at least a modicum of pity for a fellow alcoholic. Listening to the tit-for-tat exchange between these 2 personalities is is eerily similar to watching 2 whinos slapping each other around in a ditch. On a serious note, it is worth noting that both men have live extremely damaged lives on accounta their weakness for the bottle. At least they have that in common!

  4. collapse expand

    Hitchens goal was just bash Catholicism, as usual. He simply strings the beads together so as to begin with a current event so he can end with mentioning the Church and Hitler in the same sentence. Calling him out on this one rhetorical sleight of hand misses the forest for the trees.

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      If Hitchens wanted to smear Catholicism he wouldn’t have specified the “Catholic right” and “a fascist splinter group” in his rant, he would have just let Hutton Gibson represent all of Catholicism.

      Besides, it’s pretty implausible to say he wants to “bash Catholicism as usual” when 90% of his writing never even mentions the Catholic church. Mostly he bashes fundamentalist Muslims and bad writers.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    It is absolutely preposterous to indict somebody based on the behavior of his parents.

    Just to refresh your apparently lapsed memory – Mel Gibson is actually being “indicted” because he told a woman that she was a cunt and a whore, would be “raped by a pack of n*ggers”, and that he would murder her and hide the body. He’s being “indicted” because he assaulted her, in full view of her children, causing severe injuries and knocking out some of her teeth.

    Of course, because he’s so very rich and famous he’s not actually been indicted for any of this, he’s just been condemned. But not for anything his father did, just for the things Mel Gibson has done.

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    They are both just so unpleasant.

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    Wow–you are so right. Hitchen’s dad heads the loony sect that Mel belongs to, so what in heck would the dad’s views have to do with Mel’s, under the circumstances?

    Seriously, you seem to have trouble following Hitchens’ points, and I think I know why. No doubt you were thrown by his use of an advanced literary device called writing.

  8. collapse expand

    Sorry, Ethan, no go. Linking Mel with his father is absolutely valid because Mel is on record defending his father’s minimization of the Holocaust, and confirming his faith in the religious sect of which his father is a leader – a faith which does demonize Jews. Hitchens IS being weasely when he says, “It would be highly surprising if a person marinated in the doctrines of this ideology did not display all sorts of symptoms that were also sexually distraught,” because he hasn’t established himself as an authority; but that’s kind of par for the course, understanding this to be an opinion piece, eh?

  9. collapse expand

    This is some piss-poor logic. Hitchens dad may have been an imperialist, but Chris has spent his entire adult life (well, up until 09/11/2001) speaking out against racism. There’s no need for him to disown his father specifically, because he’s made it one of his life pursuits to fight against what his father stood for.
    The only way this comparison would stand up would be if Gibson was an active member of the ADL or something. Suffice it to day, he hasn’t.

    voxoctopi: when someone’s had ‘too many drinks’ thats the best time to find out their true feelings. As a psych teacher once told me, alcohol doesn’t implant ideas in your brain, it merely lowers your inhibitions to express things.

    And yes, Mr. Epstein, I don’t have any sympathy or pity for Mel Gibson. Maybe for his family, but he gets none from me.

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    About Me

    I'm a writer based in Portland, Oregon. My work has appeared in the Weekly Standard, the American Spectator, the New York Press, The Big Money, sp!Ked online, the Epoch Times, the Daily NK, and others. From 2005 to 2007, I wrote a column on culture and politics for the (alas, now defunct) Seattle-based Internationalist Magazine. In so doing, I filed dispatches from Berlin, Seoul, Paris, New York, and, yes, Reno - among other places. In 2009, I reported on business from Shanghai. I attended Reed College, in Portland, Oregon.

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