Applying Christopher Hitchens’ Logic To Christopher Hitchens
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.