Monday, July 21, 2003

Yesterday I finished reading Christopher Hitchens' lastest book review in The Atlantic Monthly, Thinking Like an Appartchik. I'd like to summarize the article for you, if I may, by quoting a line from Christopher Guest's Waiting for Guffman. In essence, Hitchens uses this book review as a forum to say:
"I hate you! I hate you...and your...ASS FACE!" to Sidney Blumenthal, whose book he is reviewing.

Here inside the Beltway, and inside any other micro-Beltways in which my fellow nerds travel, it is no secret that Sidney Blumenthal's book, The Clinton Wars, includes an unflattering portrait of Hitch the Snitch. Hitchens of course testified to a House Judiciary Committee divulging information from an informal lunch with Blumenthal. That's where things got ugly and there has been hissing and snarling and snooty high-brow mudslinging ever since. In short, it's been very entertaining for those of us who aren't into WWF.

What isn't entertaining is letting Hitchens then write and publish a "book review" on The Clinton Wars. Let him write and publish it, but don't insult us all by pretending it has the veneer of objectivity necessary to earn the title of "review." Let it be an op-ed piece, or an expose, or a spittle-drenched diatribe, but not a review. You'd get as much informative information, though far more entertainment, from a Ja Rule review of Eminem's memoirs. If you read the article, and really, don't bother, you'll see that it's just Hitchens defending himself against the various charges made against him, and counter-attacking with variations on the theme of "Blumenthal's a namby-pamby yes-man and he sleeps with his blankie."

I question the editors' decision to let Hitchens write this review, but I'd be pissing into the wind, as my brother says. The fact is, Hitchens v. Blumenthal will actually sell some issues in this freaked-out, twisted-priorities, no-life-having sector of society. So why not? It's sensationalism, but it sells. Furthermore, and I do hate to think this played any part in their decision-making, but the recently deceased, former Atlantic Editor-at-Large Michael Kelly reportedly takes a rap in Blumenthal's book. The two didn't get along. Is it possible that the Atlantic editors would sic Hitchens on Blumenthal as a sort of posthumous revenge from beyond the grave? I rather doubt it, (see "Hanlon's razor" post below, and substitute "prospect of great profit" for "stupidity") but it's a thought.

Finally, I'm coming damn close to officially disowning The Hitch. I hate to do it, but the qualities I always admired in him--his subtlety of thought and his elegant yet forceful style--seem to have all but abandoned him. I know that would be a great disappointment to my faithful readers who have come to look so forward to the regular updates on Mr. Hitchens, but I think I'm losing the heart. I'll find a copy of "Letters to a Young Contrarian"--back in the days when he would write "Do justice and let the skies fall"--and see if it comes back to me...


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