In Memoriam: Christopher Hitchens
There are many publications today that Christopher Hitchens would have delighted in critiquing, with his scathing concoction of piss and vinegar. Then again, there are many that he would not so much as bother to read, let alone critique. So what’s happened? Where did things go so wrong? Are we losing our ability to write or is the plain English Movement killing our ability to be critics? I shudder to imagine.
Before I begin my dissection of this little dilemma, I must say that I do not seek to worship Hitchens as a hero, painted in ridiculous shades of garish pastilles and the sweeping brush strokes of generalisation. One needs not read Hitchens deeply to see how much he detested such paintings, although one ought to read his works deeply and thoroughly, for their own pleasure. I would never seek to categorise Hitchens within the parameters of the socially stupid: Hitchens is no Michael Foot.
Plain English has its place: there are times when people deserve to know the facts, without confected preambles or sketchy conclusions. Although no fault lies within those who use Plain English, a grievous note of error is raised by those who abuse it and they often come from the Plain English Movement. Such a movement, which has no regard for context, seeks publicly to streamline English usage into a simple, user-friendly form in all of its channels. This is clearly a utopic farce, brought on by the less intelligent of the intellectuals, who simply desire to avoid displaying creativity or innovation of any kind, which is more or less convenient, concerning their utter lack of it.
What has Hitchens got to do with it at all? Everything. With the death of Hitchens, the world lost a bold example of deeper social journalism. He was a man who dared to curse, to deride and to challenge points of view in territories where many brilliant minds feared to tread and perhaps do even now. A profound example: when our fallen comrade underwent waterboarding, simply to prove to the world that it was a violent and dangerous form of torture. Hitchens would claim that there was no simulation of drowning, but stood by the claim that he was indeed drowning.
Importantly, Hitchens never told us what to think, especially in his earlier works. He simply laid out the case, allowing us to draw our own conclusions as valued readers. An acidic yet strangely savoury personality to admire, he is a loss to the human race.