When Christopher Hitchens wrote about White Male Privilege
Joy Toose
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Going by that “we earned our claim” quote, maybe Hitchens wasn’t as brilliant as people are saying. “Claims” aren’t “earned”; they’re assumptions and assertions that you’re entitled to stick your two cents in, whether you know what you’re talking about or not. What he really was saying was “we defended our claim.” And “speaking and intervening” are exactly what assumptions lead to: holding forth, butting in. They’re very different from listening and learning and making a contribution proportionate to what you actually know.

Hitchens’s implication that women and minorities and the disabled use their class status rather than their “qualifications (“experience, sacrifice, and work”) as authority is a fiction he’s invented about them so he can fabricate a satisfying fiction about his “us”: that his sort is the right sort (sacrificing, experienced, industrious, qualified to speak and intervene about everything); that other sort (women, minorities, them) is all wrong. This is how ordinary minds work; it’s what average people do every moment of their lives to reduce social complexity to a level they can handle. If, as seems to be the case, Hitchens never “rigorously” asked himself how he knows what he thinks or assumes he knows about other people, then I don’t see a deep or questioning intellect, and certainly not a hardworking one.

He had lively opinions, but he was overrated as a thinker.

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