Hitchens war escalates

Peter Kilander peterk at enteract.com
Thu Feb 18 06:14:22 PST 1999

>From 14 February 1999 London Review of Books letters to editors:

Moderation or Death Francis Wheen challenges Roger Scruton to 'cite a single political crime' with which Christopher Hitchens has sided (Letters, 21 January). Well, 'crime' is rather strong, but Hitchens is a self-confessed homophobe. When I was on the national executive of Liberty, then called NCCL, in the Eighties, I wrote to Hitchens about his homophobic sneerings in the New Statesman. His reply makes it clear that gay oppression is not to be seriously compared to other (then more fashionable) types of injustice. Specifically alluding to my complaint that he used terms of abuse in order to underline his contempt for gay people, he wrote: 'I think that people's sexual preferences are a legitimate subject for humour, dirty humour if at all possible. Obviously, one of the comic things about the Cambridge spy ring is that all or most of its members were/are queer . . . Faggotry, in my judgment, is as good a metaphor for that little world as any other.' When he appeared on Channel 4's Face the Press in October 1984, Hitchens's homophobic outbursts led Julian Barnes to say that 'you'd certainly need a lot of karma not to reach for your baseball bat' after hearing Hitchens's remarks. What interests me is left homophobia. It is one manifestation of 'gay exceptionalism', whereby people who are progressive in relation to other social issues, draw a line at homosexuality. Many of the canonical texts of feminism are blemished in this way. Homosexuality 'is spreading like a murky smog over the American scene', according to Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique. The hostility of Channel 4 producers to the gay community is well documented. Quite recently, a review in the Guardian of a collection of academic literary essays I edited appeared under the heading 'Fairy Stories'. Throughout Peter Preston's editorship of that paper, there was no coverage at all of lesbian issues, a ban on equal access for personal ads and a continuation of the paper's traditional support for supernaturalism. Alexander Chancellor is 'not sure', on 19 July 1997, whether equality for gay people is a good idea. As late as 1996, in his review of Kids, Derek Malcolm is dividing Aids sufferers into the 'innocent' (infection by non-sexual means) and 'guilty'. Throughout the Eighties, the Times Educational Supplement refused to cover the subject of homophobic bullying in schools, on the grounds that it was 'not on the agenda', though it is probably the main type of playground humiliation. The Observer carries a column by Richard Ingrams, who came third in a poll some years ago in Gay Times (after Norman Tebbit and Rabbi Jacobovits) as Homophobe of the Year. Had the same level of prejudice been directed against a racial minority, or the disabled, it would have been denounced with vigour and might well have led to criminal proceedings or civil litigation. Mark Lilly University of Tunis ----------------------------------------------- I would have been nice if Mark had any examples from the NINETIES. In Cockburn's rant, he suggests Hitchens is faggy, thereby conjuring up the insane Forsterian connection between homosexual and traitorous deportment. So, let's see if I got this straight. According to his enemies, Hitchens is a homophobic, Holocaust-denying, self-promoting, alcoholic, homosexual, "sexual McCarthyite" snitch. Did I forget anything? On the back of my copy of Wall Street, Doug's arch-nemesis Norman Pearlstine (once executive editor of the Wall St. Journal) says of Doug "You are scum . . . It's tragic that you exist." And THEN under the back, inside-cover photo it reads in part: "He is ... the editor of the Left Business Observer which Christopher Hichens described as "a charm against the priests and warlocks of pseudo-science."


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