[lbo-talk] Christopher Hitchens dead

Michael Pollak mpollak at panix.com
Fri Dec 16 09:41:12 PST 2011

On Fri, 16 Dec 2011, SK wrote:

> I noticed that on your archives recently...It really takes me back to
> hearing all those arguments, since I read almost everything Hitchens
> wrote at that time. Listening to it again, his arguments are really
> remarkably awful. Iraq was going to implode anyway so at least the US
> should be involved when it happens. What sort of argument is that for
> bombing a country?

Hitchens in his prime was one of the world's best live debaters, and this is a perfect illustration of his unique technique -- bad arguments were a part of it so long as they were completely new. Chess players call these TNs or Theoretical Novelties. His ability to keep generating these and pull them out in debate was unmatched. And while his honest opponent would be thinking, Is there anything to that? What's the best reply? and thus looking like he hadn't thought things through, Hitchens would hit him with a zinger. And when his opponent delivered his argument, which followed perfectly predictable lines, Hitchens would hit him with another zinger. And all of it would be delivered with that oxbridgian hyper fluency that is designed to make anything uttered in it sound not only plausible but contemptuously obvious and also witty.

It's a pleasure to see it in action, even if -- maybe esp. when -- it's all. Anybody can win an argument when they're right. It takes a real artist to keep taking tricks when they're not.


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