The death of any prominent individual – let alone one who held controversial views – always results in a certain amount of aggravation as the skeins of supporters flock to various forms of media to have one final fight about the irreplaceable stature or utter irrelevance of the recently deceased. It’s the ‘real life’ equivalent of trying to have the last word BTL. To those involved its of upmost importance as the one who gets the final say ‘wins’; whilst to neutral observers it’s just a twattish waste of time.
So Christopher Hitchens is dead and we have to instantly *this second* decide what his legacy will be; because if we don’t the thread will be locked and imagine the utter horror if the other side got the last word! Those who held Hitchens in high regard have given their predictable eulogies on his importance but the dramallama appeared on twitter this afternoon when the World at One invited Tariq Ali to give his opinion on Hitchens life.
It’s fair to say his assessment of Hitchens wasn’t wholly sympathetic.
Cue twittermob. Bizarrely one of the most vocal was Richard Madeley who variously accused Ali of ‘patronising + attacking him (Hitchens) and hijacking the agenda’. I’m unsure what the agenda was exactly but Dick had a plan to counteract ‘the hijacking’ and it involved getting Caitlin Moran to not only call Ali an ‘ass hat’ (seemingly before she’d actually listened to the clip concerned) but to think about writing a column about it.
Oh Tariq. This is what happens when you spend decade upon decade merely ranting; the Dicks and Caits of the world eventually size you up to take you down. I bet you already miss Hitch.
Personally as someone who found both Hitchens and Ali to be wrong, thought provoking and interesting even though ninety per cent of the time they gave the impression of comparing penis sizes (‘no I’m right my argument and intellectualism is literally 4 inches bigger’): I don’t think Hitchens would have felt offended, attacked let alone patronised by those who hold true to their negative opinions of him in death as in life. Quite the opposite he almost certainly would have supported them against the veneer of agreement that we tend to apply once those we disagree with pass away.
This NY Times article about the death of Mother Teresa and criticism of ‘beloved figures’ when they die is especially pertinent now.
That kind of reticence was not shared by Christopher Hitchens, who quickly agreed to interviews in the aftermath of Mother Teresa’s death. He is the author of ”The Missionary Position,” which was first published in 1995 and is a critical examination of Mother Teresa that decried her association with Haiti’s Duvalier family and other dubious donors.
On his answering machine in Washington, Mr. Hitchens left a blunt statement about the famous nun. ”She believed we were all miserable sinners conceived in iniquity. She made no exception, I believe, for herself. She was a lifelong friend of the rich and powerful, a lifelong lecturer of morals to the poor. So the details may be found in my book, ‘The Missionary Position,’ available in paperback at fine bookstores everywhere.”
Following the nun’s death, Mr. Hitchens’s publisher, Verso, immediately ordered the printing of 5,000 more copies of the book, which until then had been fading away, according to Mr. Robinson.
He would have found those that advocate a false ‘niceness’ towards him simply because he has died to be the ones who were patronising. Those that don’t wish Tariq Ali to voice his opinions on Hitchens in the immediacy of his death simply have not read nor understood what Hitchens was all about.
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