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Will Martin @will_wtj
, 11 tweets, 2 min read Read on Twitter
1. Like many people I have been drawn to Christopher Hitchens. Perhaps the many recordings of him on YouTube will mark his legacy more than his writings because the real-life roundness of his warmth, intelligence, acerbity and fearlessness seem a unique and lamented combination
2. But when I was younger I remember reading some of his magazine contributions, and while admiring the flash of his prose and the range of his knowledge, I was unconvinced by the gusto of his righteousness and his strong allegiance to the romance of socialist politics
3. Seeing video clips of him, he revelled in the theatre of the dramatic put-down, the crying of 'shame' for what he would trenchantly frame as misdeeds of history, and all his voracious reading seems primarily aimed at achieving these eruptive moments of condemnation
4. The logic of his politically trenchant condemnations was always that 'something must be done', and in the Nato intervention in the Bosnian war he experienced a tangible victory for his and other's forceful campaigning
5. But reluctance to intervene has roots in plenty of calamitous antecedents, and unfortunately Bosnia gave him and others a false confidence which led to the bitterest irony for him: his ardent prosleytizing of the war in Iraq hangs 'shame' on his neck in no uncertain way
6. He was marked out by an early teacher as likely to end up as a 'pamphleteer', and this cuts to the heart of what he ended up as: someone who could rouse a crowd with a stirring polemic, steeped in just enough historical knowledge to sound revelatory
7. But the one-sidedness of his argumentation betrayed a certain dishonesty. He said he loved 'dialectic', the cut & thrust of argument, but he was often unwilling to give the other side of the argument the dignity of being treated seriously (incl. his attacks on religion)
8. But I come back again to his remarkable trenchancy – his saying things, firmly, angrily, insightfully – from a breadth of historical knowledge and understanding which, sadly, is remarkably rare in our public or, dare one say it, private lives
9. It saddens and frightens me that a man so well read, well travelled, well conversed, who really had gone out deep into the world, remained an ardent advocate of socialism for so much of his life
10. His personal warmth, the glint in his eye, his reaching out to the public, his cheekiness even, made it hard to take him seriously as a socialist revolutionary, but that is what he avowed
11. The only comfort I take is believing that he enjoyed so much playing the role of the righteous prophet that this more than anything conditioned his politics
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