Thursday, November 06, 2003

I love listening to the early morning show on KHYI in Dallas. First, they play great country music. Second, the DJs are generally personable and sometimes even funny. Third, they take a lot of calls, and about five percent of the time the callers are really bright and witty. Half the time they're just regular Joes. The rest of them range from a little slow to real dumb. Seems that many of them have been up all night drinking, like the guy who just phoned in, said, "I jus' wanned to--BURP--uhh, some Mac Stallings." The DJ instantly put on "Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink". They run this thing they call "Earl Pitts, American" at about 8:20 Central time, which is worth tuning in for. Earl is an Angry White Male.

Christopher Hitchens is off the reservation. He's rolled over, flip-flopped, jumped the fence, changed his coat--joined the Right. Welcome, Chris. You may remember that we predicted this would happen several months ago, but we were still awaiting his recantation of his past sins before we would currently accept him into the congregation. Here it is. He hath repented. Kill the fatted calf, the prodigal has come home. Note the bold type.

An example: In trying to justify the earlier eviction of Saddam from Kuwait, Secretary of State James Baker put forward the case that "jobs" were the main justification. I thought that to be both stupid and ignoble at the time (and was generally antiwar at that date) but did not think that it automatically, or even partially, invalidated the case for restoring Kuwaiti sovereignty by force of arms.

He was a little more than antiwar at that date. In fact, he spent a great deal of his time slandering Bush I in particular and the United States in general at that date. But hidden and convoluted as it may be, that's the mea culpa we needed. Chris is in the club.

I think it's interesting that Hitchens's hero is George Orwell, and I can't avoid thinking that Orwell's thought developed greatly during the years. As late as 1937 he was still parroting the Trot / Left Socialist doctrine about the coming war against the Nazis being a dastardly capitalist plot. Then he went to Spain and learned that it was possible for the Left to be not only wrong but evil. From 1938 Orwell was anti-Soviet. From 1939 he was pro-war. But until at least 1940 he was anti-Semitic:

25 October (1940)

The other night examined the crowds sheltering in Chancery Lane, Oxford Circus, and Baker Street stations. Not all Jews, but I think, a higher proportion of Jews than one would normally see in a crowd this size. What is bad about Jews is that they are not only conspicuous, but go out of their way to make themselves so. A fearful Jewish woman, a regular comic-paper cartoon of a Jewess, fought her way off the train at Oxford Circus, landing blows on anyone who stood in her way...

Surprised to find that D., who is distinctly left in his views, is inclined to share the current feeling against the Jews. He says that the Jews in business circles are turning pro-Hitler, or preparing to do so. this sounds almost incredible, but according to D. they will always admire anyone who kicks them. What I do feel is that any Jew, i.e. European Jew, would prefer Hitler's kind of social system to ours, if it were not that he happens to persecute them. Ditto with almost any Central European, e.g. the refugees. They make use of England as a sanctuary, but they cannot help feeling the profoundest contempt for it. You can see this in their eyes, even when they don't say it outright. (War-time Diary, 1940)

Lovely, George. Xenophobic and antiSemitic all at the same time. But he grew over the years. I am convinced that when he says "you" in the following famous passage from 1945, he is talking about himself:

As for the nationalistic loves and hatreds that I have spoken of, they are part of the makeup of most of us, whehter we like it or not. whether it is possible to get rid of them I do not know, but I do believe that it is possible to struggle against them, and that this is essentially a moral effort. It is a question first and all of discovering what one really is, what one's own feelings really are, and then of making allowance for the inevitable bias. If you hate and fear Russia, if you are jealous of the wealth and power of America, if you despise Jews, if you have a sentiment of inferiority toward the British ruling class, you cannot get rid of these feelings simply by taking thought. But you can at least recognize that you have them, and prevent them from contaminating your mental processes. (Notes on Nationalism)

The second passage is a great deal wiser and more mature than the first. This is Orwell's recantation of his antiSemitism, twisted as it is: "I admit I despise Jews, but I don't like that fact about myself". I think he's being honest.

I have a feeling that Orwell's movement toward the Right would have continued if he had survived; he might well have moved as far as Muggeridge or Paul Johnson did. Certainly his two best-known books, written after 1943, were savagely anti-Soviet, and he's known to have made a list of literary figures who were untrustworthy because of their Communist affiliation, in his judgment. I think Hitchens is passing through the same intellectual process that Orwell did.

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