Read Unhitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens by Richard Seymour Online

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Irascible and forthright, Christopher Hitchens stood out as a man determined to do just that. In his younger years, a career-minded socialist, he emerged from the smoke of 9/11 a neoconservative “Marxist,” an advocate of America’s invasion of Iraq filled with passionate intensity. Throughout his life, he played the role of universal gadfly, whose commitment to the truth trIrascible and forthright, Christopher Hitchens stood out as a man determined to do just that. In his younger years, a career-minded socialist, he emerged from the smoke of 9/11 a neoconservative “Marxist,” an advocate of America’s invasion of Iraq filled with passionate intensity. Throughout his life, he played the role of universal gadfly, whose commitment to the truth transcended the party line as well as received wisdom. But how much of this was imposture? In this highly critical study, Richard Seymour casts a cold eye over the career of the “Hitch” to uncover an intellectual trajectory determined by expediency and a fetish for power.As an orator and writer, Hitchens offered something unique and highly marketable. But for all his professed individualism, he remains a recognizable historical type -- the apostate leftist. Unhitched presents a rewarding and entertaining case study, one that is also a cautionary tale for our times....

Title : Unhitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens
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ISBN : 9781844679904
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 134 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Unhitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens Reviews

  • Matt Kelly
    2019-03-03 04:42

    If ever you were wanting to write a book that you know would sell at least a few copies, choose a well known subject, wait till he/she passes away so that they have no chance of rebuttal, round up all the people that have ever disagreed or have broken friendships with said subject and there you have it. You have your book. This book could have been worth reading. Hitchens' unrelenting support for the war with Iraq and his anti-choice stance in regards to abortion are just two subjects that seem at odds with the rest of his ideas and would be well worth an impartial authors time. This book looked at these two issues and were so totally one sided in approach as to be completely worthless. I'm totally at a loss that anyone could take this book seriously, I suppose that someone with no prior knowledge to anything Christopher wrote would find the arguments compelling, but some of the arguments and statements either quote Hitchens completely out of context or are completely baseless statements that its a wonder the editors of this book didn't foresee any dangers of libel.The rebuttal to this book would have been brutal, if only the subject had a chance of one.

  • Mac
    2019-03-07 05:43

    I have read my share of post-2001 Christopher Hitchens – I lugged that doorstop “Arguably” around on my commute for weeks – but haven’t had a lot of experience with his pieces for “The Nation” in the 80’s/90’s, or his pre-emigration work in London. Copies of his out-of-print earlier works are selling for a cool grand on Amazon, and aren’t available at my local library, so I’ve long had to take Mr. Hitchens’s word for it that he is (or was) a Marxist or post-Trotskyist, which seems to have been his ongoing justification for the neoconservative positions he took after 2001. “If I’m willing to get into bed with the Bush Administration, you can tell it’s the right thing to do.” What Richard Seymour does in this angry little book is not only unpack the absurdity of this logic, but also point out that its premises are false: Hitchens may have self-identified as a member of the left, but Seymour argues his self-ascribed “contrarianism” was conveniently always in the service of Empire.This is an interesting thesis (it’s not the only one – in fact, the thesis could more aptly be stated as “Christopher Hitchens was always, always wrong” – but more on that in a moment). Because of his pedigree in the International Socialists (now the SWP, Seymour’s own, as of March 2013 former party) and the publications for which he’s written, Hitchens’s left-ness has always been pretty much assumed. I assumed it, anyway – and (as Seymour is careful to point out) unlike Paul Johnson or Norman Podhoretz, who were sure to thoroughly repudiate any prior fellow-traveling, Hitchens never apologized or distanced himself from his past. He still saw himself, it seems, as a supporter of revolution, and even in very late essays referred to himself as a “very conservative Marxist” (whatever that means).But Seymour challenges this – he has apparently read through everything Hitchens ever wrote (his local library must be bigger than mine), and determined that no, “Hypocritchens” was not a full-throated supporter of the Trotskyism he claimed, but an apologist for and admirer of the neoliberal projects of Margaret Thatcher and George W. Bush (and the seeds of this “contrarianism” appeared early enough to earn him that nickname in college). Seymour also – and this was particularly interesting – presents a fairly damning case that Hitchens was, if not a full-blown plagiarist, at the very least shoddy with his attributions, and all too happy to take credit for others’ work.These are solid critiques, and worth airing. Hitchens’s personality was so large, and his accent so honed, that the American press and Washington establishment always seemed to be in awe of the man – very few negative obituaries of the sort Hitchens himself was fond of writing made it out there. Most of them had something along the lines of “say what you will about his [insert controversial view here], the man was a [insert praise here, possibly add reference to Scotch],” and failed to look at any of his work critically. So this “trial” is a welcome change of pace, especially for a man who would never have given his enemies (or friends – see Hitchens’s conflicts with Edward Said) the same kind of deference.Of course, the prosecution is (in my mind anyway) a bit overzealous. There are plenty of things to take Hitchens to task for – but not all of them are here, and some of the arguments that do appear seem a little much. The Hitchens was always, always wrong thesis leads Seymour to decide that anything the man liked – Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, George Orwell – is therefore undeserving of anything but scorn. While Hitchens’s hero-worship certainly went a bit far for a man who thought of himself as so Very Serious a Person, it doesn’t necessarily follow that Orwell (flawed as he was) is the one at fault.The converse is also true: if Hitchens didn’t like it, Seymour seems to think it must have something to recommend it. He doesn’t go so far as to defend Henry Kissinger or Mother Teresa, two of Hitchens’s favorite targets, but he does puzzlingly assume that many objects of Hitchens’s ire are worthwhile simply because he didn’t like them. This is particularly true in Seymour’s discussion of Hitchens vs. religion, where he seems to almost posit the existence of God (and its self-evidence) as evidence. This is a little much – Hitchens was a bully about religion, sure, and Seymour makes the outstanding point that though he constantly railed against the irrationality of the religious, he was doing so from a completely irrational and emotional place, but the Hitchens was always, always wrong thesis can push the book into odd corners.Hitchens on religion is particularly thorny for Seymour. There’s sure to be a certain type of reader who dislikes Hitchens specifically for his virulent atheism – this book isn’t for you, sad to say. Personally, I felt as though Hitchens’s finest quality was his atheism – not in spite of Seymour’s complaints but exactly because of them. Of course Hitchens and the New Atheists are a bunch of insufferable prigs (does anyone seem more insufferable than Richard Dawkins, really?) – that’s exactly the role they play, the insufferable prigs on one side to counterweight the insufferable prigs on the other. Hitchens was unfair to religion, belittled its followers and indicted its leaders – that was his goal. To argue that he was so is to say he succeeded. (I should make clear that this is not the extent of Seymour’s complaint – he makes the very fair point that Hitchens was not consistent in his derision for all religions, and really used atheism as an excuse for creeping Islamophobia.) The real critique on Hitchens and religion is elsewhere: when debaters and interviewers finally asked the understandable question of “what exactly is it you want?” Hitchens would always weasel out of this, and argue that he wanted merely to “be left alone” or some such escape-phrase. That he could spend so much time shrieking against the faithful (to my delight, I’ll say) and then backpedal to this safe haven makes it fairly clear that his ranting wasn’t much more than sound and fury, an excuse to get on television.There are many reasons to hate Christopher Hitchens. For all his Kissinger-bashing, he absolutely was an apologist and advocate for Empire, and his support for the Iraq war was criminal. Clearly, his treatment of those close to him could be horrendous, and his narcissism and opportunism was a major part of his personality. And just look at that dumb photo on the cover of “Letters to a Young Contrarian.” Seymour’s trial is mostly successful – he makes some missteps and, I’d argue, skips a few important points, but does a good job of pointing out that Hitchens never really was a “man of the left,” and that his apostasy was really just another step in the direction he was always headed.And yet… I still have a strange soft spot for Hitchens. He was probably a better speaker than a writer, and watching him debate everyone who would talk to him was always great fun. He was certainly a bit more of a personality than a font of ideas, but that personality was sure fun to watch.

  • David M
    2019-03-18 04:32

    Just discovered this series from Verso. Looks like it will provide some light, entertaining hate reading. Hitchens was not quite such an utter buffoon as Bono or Thomas Friedman. Nonetheless, he was a hugely overrated writer and ultimately kind of a scumbag. Maybe if he'd lived just a few years longer, he'd have seen the rise of ISIS and finally gotten it through his blimpish skull how disastrously wrong he'd been about Iraq.

  • Ivan Mulcahy
    2019-03-16 08:33

    I wrote about this book on Facebook because it was given an unjustified panning by the Sunday Times. It is not particularly finely written. Nor does it have Hitchens oozing his extraordinary charm that made you nestle in close bedside him so you could bask in his self-love. Hitchens needed be picked apart for failing to reverse his wrong turn into neo-con militarism with the Iraq invasion.. He just lost it man. And he needs be called on that. I adored him at his best - delicious. But Hitchens telling of his encounter with the American family whose son became a soldier serving in Iraq because he was inspired by Hitchens speechifying. Awful. The son died in the field of course. And Hitchens writes about how he was humbled.... And ivan vomited at the self- serving phoniness of that sentimental usage of young death.

  • Mmyoung
    2019-03-16 10:22

    A rather 'inside the beltway' discussion of Hitchens that contextualizes his political opinions and arguments from within the ideological context in which he first made his name and which later gave weight to his opinions about Bush and the war. (If even a Trotskyist thinks such and such then it must not simply be a right-wing talking point.)Enjoyable to read a examination of Hitchens work that does not focus unduly (or indeed much at all) about his atheism save for the way in which it informed his choice of political argument.Unfortunately quite weak on the intersection between leftist politics and feminism.

  • Jordan
    2019-02-25 05:50

    One thing is for sure, this tiny book is more thoroughly researched and contains more citations than everything Hitchens ever wrote put together. He was of course a charismatic figure and eloquent writer and speaker. He also had an incoherent politics that rendered him a bloodthirsty and loyal servant of power, a bogus intellectual, and a terrible journalist. That's what this book is about. Hitchens should have stuck to writing about literature.

  • Philip
    2019-03-24 05:44

    Will probably never actually read this book, but wanted to give it five stars on principle alone. Hitchens was undeniably brilliant, but he was also a consistently bullying, insensitive, and highly-prejudiced and mean-spirited jerk, and I am just delighted to see him presented here as the ultimate, well,asshole that he was.

  • Alex
    2019-02-28 10:33

    This is certainly as devastating and complete a critique of Hitchens as one can find. It was remarkable to watch him apparently come somewhat unhinged as a thinker in the decade leading up to his death as his stature as a 'public intellectual' grew ever greater despite his very clear decline.

  • Michael
    2019-03-20 11:32

    An interesting critique and chronicle of Hitchens' life and times. Makes no attempt at shallow "balance" or eulogy, as acknowledged at the beginning of the book. Refreshing and unapologetic in its polemical nature.

  • Pat Fitzgerald
    2019-02-22 07:23

    Gets an extra star for chutzpah and for prompting outraged reviews from Hitchens's tough-talking fanboys.

  • Hampus
    2019-02-26 09:41

    I suppose it's quite dangerous to take the prosecutor at his word without hearing the defendant's; with the latter being six feet under (though it wouldn't surprise me if Hitchens was cremated), I guess we have to either listen to the people willing to defend him, which consists of a slew of neocons, Washington hacks, his swooning fans, and the perennially boring semi-left New Statesman.Like most tired old adages, there's some usefulness in judging a man by the company he keeps, and the trial of Christopher Hitchens have to be damning in this regard. He's up and running with Ron Paul and Dawkins for the most blindly sycophantic and annoying fan-base; they persistently stalk the Internet, ready to spam and flood any negative appraisal with incoherent drivel and indignant outrage at their idols exposed cracks and scratches. I was 11 years old when the planes hit the twin towers, so it's fair to say that I wasn't quite intellectually involved in the debate during those years, and when looking back at the Bush-administrations scramble for war and their general craziness, it all looks like a giant farce. I suppose I encountered Hitchens along with the "new atheist" movement, and though I'm an atheist myself, I can't stand any of them. But Hitchens always struck me as the most entertaining of the lot. He was a very good writer, much better than Richard Seymour, and trying to one-up him in the art of raucous free-wheelin' insults looks faintly silly and is bound to fail. However, looking beyond the style of the book, Seymour definitely has more than a point. Hitchens was a petty and (though well-read and spoken) an unremarkable intellect; I think he knew it himself. His self-styled contrarianism looks like bravado and empty charading; what's contrarian about supporting American aggression like all the other hacks in the NY Times and mainstream media? If he was a contrarian, how come he received warm eulogies from the two principal nitwits of respectability, the prime minister and president of the most powerful bullies in the world; why did every respectable drivel-rag of mainstream punditry wax turgid and tearful in appraising this "contrarian" when he fell of the proverbial twig (which probably cracked under his swelling ego)? Atheism? There's nothing controversial about pissing on religion, perhaps if you were Tyco Brahe, but not when you're sitting in your comfortable swivel-chair in Washinton flinging insults at the pious of the 21st century liberal countries. Hitchens became a mercenary character-assassin for the Bush regime, which is evident in his slanderous nonsense against Noam Chomsky, Vidal, Naomi Klein, Edward Saïd, Tariq Ali and anybody daring to oppose the Bush administrations reckless rampages; Hitchens never really made any more sense than Bush when defending the Iraq war, if a with a little more flourish and trademark style. He accused anybody who opposed the occupation of being "fellow-travelers with fascism", which is just akin to saying "either you're with us, or you're with the terrorist".To call Hitchens a "great thinker" is preposterous, he was much more a pamphleteer of some talent and erudition; a lesser Tom Paine without a revolution to attach himself too, and I suppose he thought he found his revolution with the neocons.However, Hitchens is fascinating; he never really reneged on his leftism like other useless ex-leftists like David Horowitz and co. even if the did betray some old friends over vainglorious pride and for a seat at the neocon table. Hitchens is well-worth reading; this book however, is sloppy and uneven, and as an indictment it falls well-short of what it could've been. And that just adds fuel to the fire of the faithful Hitchens-worshippers.

  • Llew
    2019-03-11 06:40

    Really want to like but the criticism is all over the place. All very well said and he definitely knows Hitchens left and right, but it's hard to follow. Narrative is jumbled with a million -ists, and references to things that only someone with an intimate knowledge of Hitchens or the split between new labor and the international socialists would appreciate. I got frustrated after the third reference to Hitchens insulting Said and Chomsky without giving us the backstory. In a way it's written as Hitchens might have written it: as an eloquent mess. Imperial Messenger did it better.

  • Steve
    2019-02-22 09:32

    I don't believe in sacred cows, so a book that purports to be a critique of the political and anti-theistic positions of the late Christopher Hitchens, despite the negative reviews I was seeing on atheist websites, became a must read for me. The book fell to the bottom of my pile, so I just got around to finishing it tonight.I can't say I am disappointed in the book, because there have been many reviews that have taken it to task for being unfair and for using language that is obtuse (in the sense of using too many three dollar words) at the expense of clarity, as though the author didn't just want to smear Hitchens, he wanted to prove he was smarter than Hitchens.Hitchens can justifiably, in my opinion, be criticized for his war hawkishness in the lead up to Bush II's disastrous Iraq war, And I also think there can be detected in some of his writings a certain amount of Islamaphobia and perhaps even some downright anti-Islamism bordering on hate speech. Though Hitchens was a critic of all religion, he was exceptionally hard on Islam at a time when members of that religion were being vilified. Painting all Muslims with the same brush is unfair.Instead of a responsible critique, though, this book is a hatchet job by a second thinker hiding behind obscurantist and technical sounding language. Where a plain spoken examination of Hitchens writings and public pronouncements might have served as a useful tool in reexamining the legacy of Hitchens, this book is simply useless.