Christopher Hitchens: Cynic, sophist, shill
Chomsky wisely refuses to take the bait by responding to Hitchens’ shameful attention seeking, simply saying “…there are liars and there are brazen liars – is there any point in responding? It’s kind of like responding to a Soviet commissar.” Certainly were he to do so, then he would need to explain why he chose not to respond to a thousand other people who might accuse him of being a sausage or similar nonsense. And to those who applaud Hitchens’ track record I say when Piccasso does a jobby – it is just a jobby, not a work of art.
Hitchens writes disparagingly against what he terms ‘moral equivalence,’ the alternative being the belief that his side of the debate are right by virtue of who they are, rather than what they do. Were that in fact the case, then he would not need to produce such slander. He is effectively contending that while the U.S government might have killed hundreds of thousands of Arabs since 9/11 – their motives were good – as evidenced by their words - just ask them and they’ll tell you. If you reject this view of the word then you are guilty of moral equivalence which is the hated notion that we should judge others by the same standards we apply to ourselves. And if you are a prominent enough exponent of this outrageous view then some establishment intellectual will start throwing flak. Let’s look at one at work.
After deliberately misrepresenting the term (moral equivalence) in a shameful act of sophistry, Hitchens notes that it “might be a weak word here” because Chomsky actually argues that Bush’s “crimes vastly exceed bin Laden's." Hitchens knows that this is not what the term moral equivalence refers to. It is not concerned with the end product. It is a disparaging term used against people like Chomsky who take the shocking view that we should all be judged by the same standards. When we do this, we find “uncontroversially” that President Bush’s “crimes vastly exceed bin Laden's." The finding is certainly uncontroversial if we deem the killing of innocent civilians a crime. But what riles Hitchens is that this moral equivalence – or lack of hypocrisy – ignores one crucial fact: We are the goodies.
We could focus on the deceitful question begging and backward reasoning inherent in this position, but such nuances would be lost upon Hitchens' target audience who are required to view international politics in the same way they view football: Support your team. No matter if your team happens to be full of hatchet men and the opposition side mostly young girls – you just don’t perceive, much less care about, your team's fouls. If that is the way you want to view the world, that is up to you – but it is not scholarship, it is soviet type journalism.
Turning to Michael Moore, and in characteristically disingenuous style, Hitchens appears to argue that a person can be proved guilty without standing trial – a view more in line with bin Laden’s than the US constitution – but he anticipates this and attributes his view to Moore. It’s worth reading that section to see a charlatan at work.
He continues on Chomsky “it is remarkable that he should write as if the mass of evidence against Bin Laden has never been presented or could not have been brought before a court.” But Chomsky, who incidentally considers it likely that bin Laden was behind 9/11, simply pointed out that 80 commandos ought to have been able to take an unarmed man alive and that he in fact did not have his day in court which – if captured by goodies - he should have. Hitchens goes on to label this view a “form of 9/11 denial” (sic) before descending into the gutter by inventing Chomsky’s “unstated but self-evident premise, which is that the United States richly deserved the assault on its citizens and its civil society.” If he bothered to digest what Chomsky writes Hitchens would search in vein until his dying days to find any such sentiment – which is a figment of his imagination. Chomsky is on record many times as condemning 9/11 as “an atrocity carried out with wicked and awesome cruelty” which “could never be justified.” Sadly Hitchens now seems to enjoy his sideline of throwing mud for corporate power and cheerleading for team Bush.