Christopher Hitchens Debate Reviews: The Not So Good

HitchensIn a hommage to my atheist blogosphere opposite number, Lukeprog of the now-archived Common Sense Atheism, who compiled a review of all William Lane Craig’s debates, I publish here a similar collection of my thoughts of the debates of my intellectual hero, the late Christopher Hitchens: journalist, literary critic, author, scourge of the faithful and proud member of the Four Horseman with his international bestseller against the forces of theocratic fascism, god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

Hitchens did many debates and I have mainly included formal debates and panel discussions in front of an audience.  I have mentioned some of Hitch’s many TV and radio interviews and discussions, but only where there was a single topic on the agenda, as opposed to the zillions of time he appeared on C-SPAN and Bill Maher to discuss the general politics of the day.

I may have missed out on some; suggestions in the comments section, please!

Since there are 69 70 71 debates in total, I have divided the piece up into three separate posts as follows:

The Great;

The Good; and

The Not So Good (for the remainder of this post).

The Not So Good

Craig, “Does God Exist?”, Biola University, Los Angeles, 4 April 2009 (Video / MSP review / MSP review one year on in three parts).  This one hurt quite a lot.  While not the massacre that the first blog reports had us believe, Hitchens simply did not prepare to take on “professional debater” (© Richard Dawkins) Craig and wanted to debate whether religion was good for the world, as opposed to the actual topic under discussion.  Craig showboats in front of his home crowd and Hitch lets him get away with smugly asserting that his five “arguments” are irrefutable.

D’Souza Round I, “Is Christianity the Problem?”, King’s College, New York, 22 October 2007 (Video / Audio).  Hitch lands a few punches, but overall he was not on top form on the night.  D’Souza is loud, longwinded and gets the last word on many points through filibustering.  There is also plenty of disingenuous quote-mining of authorities and misrepresenting of Hitch’s arguments.

Hitchens/Jackson –v- Arkes/Markson, “The Death Penalty Debate”, National Review & The Nation Institute, 7 April 1997 (Video).  Hitchens shares a platform with the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who he was later to throw in the same damning category as the “Reverends” Jerry Falwell, Al Sharpton and Pat Robertson as someone who can get away with offences to truth and morality by virtue of calling himself a man of faith.  Hitch speaks against the death penalty persuasively, however, he is up against two equally convincing opponents and the clash is best described as a draw.  The Q&A section descends into farce due to a strict moderator and hapless audience members straying off topic.  For Hitchens completists only.

Galloway, The Iraq War of 2003 was just and necessary”, Baruch College, New York, 14 September 2005 (Video).  I have consigned this one to the lowest category, not because Hitch loses the debate, but because it’s deeply unpleasant watching him share a platform with such an unsavoury, hard-left demagogue who openly supports brutal Islamist regimes.  Things get pretty personal and Galloway resorts to schoolyard name calling.  At least he gets his comeuppance from the NY crowd by suggesting that America brought the 9/11 attacks on themselves.  Sully your eyes and ears by watching it if you must.

Click below to see:

The Great

The Good

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10 Responses to “Christopher Hitchens Debate Reviews: The Not So Good”

  1. Joe Says:

    Galloway is the most despicable human being. That debate is so cringe-worthy. Hitch’s position, Galloway, the audience — it was all just unbearable. Hitch looks great with a beard though. I cannot grow a beard no matter how hard I try so it still boggles the mind that people who can, decide to shave it off nonetheless.

  2. Anthony Peters Says:

    With respect, your comments about George Galloway are what should be considered unsavoury. Galloway has for decades courageously fought for the humanitarian rights of the Palestinian people. Hitchens was a moral and intellectual coward who used his skills as an orator and an author to lend to support for the American war of aggression in Iraq which is now almost widely considered to have been completely unjustified, premised as it was on a fraudulent pretext of ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’. Much as I will acknowledge Hitchens’s eloquence, his encyclopaedic knowledge of history, his skills as a raconteur; it’s nevertheless clear to me that his arguments were systematically dismantled by Galloway. He was left looking like a startled deer caught in the headlights when confronted by Galloway’s counter-arguments. And to accuse Galloway of schoolyard name-calling is ludicrous. Hitchens opened the debate by with a lengthy personal attack on Galloway’s character, and he kept this up throughout. Galloway in contrast began by cleverly praising Hitchens for his previous life as a defender of liberal values.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Thank you for your comment, Anthony.

      I am not keen on revisiting this debate but as I recall, Hitchens spent most of his opening speech setting out his case for the Iraq War and only spent the last few minutes attacking Galloway for his conduct before the Congressional Committee.

      Galloway on the other hand called Hitchens “a slug” and said he was an example of reverse evolution, or words to that effect. He praised Hitchens’ opposition on the first Gulf War before throwing it back in his face.

      I do not believe that Galloway is sincere in his support for the Palestinians. Like many on the Hard Left in Britain, he has formed an unholy alliance with radical Islam because he thinks that the Jihadists are waging on war on Western Capitalism

      As I say in my review, Hitchens did not come off well in this debate and Galloway succeeded in dragging him down to his level.

      I actually agree with the aims of the Iraq War far more since reading and listening to Hitchens on the topic. But the Weapons of Mass Destruction claim is the deal breaker for me as well.

      MSP

  3. Anthony Peters Says:

    Thanks for responding. I’m also not interested in re-opening the core issue of this debate, as I think it’s already very much settled – that is, American and UK intervention in Iraq was an unjustifiable violation of that country’s sovereignty perpetrated on a fraudulent pretext. I’m glad we agree on that score at least.

    As regards your statement suggesting Galloway’s ‘unholy alliance with radical Islam’, I would recommend that you listen more closely to what Galloway himself has to say about the matter. Whenever broached on the matter in the interviews that I have watched, he scathingly condemns atrocitities committed by the Saudi regime, Sunni extremists, IS and other protagonists, in the very strongest terms. Note that it was Galloway who very presciently, in this very debate, warned us of the rise of radical Islam and extremism as an outcome of American interference in Iraq. He was 100% right.

    I think what you may be referring to by the supposed ‘unholy alliance’ is Galloway’s support for the right of the Palestinian people to resist the foreign occupation of their territory by Israel, effectively via the agency of Hamas and Hezbollah. Here the point that Galloway is making is that a people seeking self-determination, under occupation by a foreign power, have the right to resist their occupation. The United Nations security council has consistently affirmed their right to do so. He points to the hypocrisy of unflinching US military and economic support for Israel who perpetrate this occupation, and who effectively enable Israel’s periodic purges of thousands of Palestinian civilians through their indiscriminate bombing campaigns in Gaza.

    If Galloway’s courageous representations to defend this oppressed people amount to ‘support for radical Islam’ in your eyes, then I think you need to take more notice of what he actually has been saying.

    Tony Peters

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Tony

      Galloway is one of the few people who actually makes me lament the existence of freedom of speech and freedom of the press with his appalling, demagogic drivel.

      If you can direct me to Galloway’s condemnation of violence by extremist Islamic governments in the Middle East, I’d like to see it.

      I punched the phrase into Google and all I found was this website reminding me of Galloway’s abject, sycophantic praise of Saddam Hussein and his psychopathic son when he looked forward to the conquest of Jerusalem (which I was already aware of) and a denial of the Tiananmen Square Massacre (which I wasn’t).

      I’ve seen and heard enough now and need an extra long, hot bath with turpentine and steel wool scourers.

      MSP

  4. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    Thank you for the video links, rk.

    I apologise for the delaying in coming back to you, but these days I spend more time in the gym and watching Formula 1 than the topics pertaining to this blog.

    I watched the first clip and was quietly encouraged by Galloway’s more reasonable stance towards today’s intervention in Iraq against ISIS/ISIL and thought for a moment that his advancing years may be softening him.

    But then the Hard Left demagogue took over with the scoring of a cheap rhetorical point against Jacqui Smith accusing her (personally) of killing a million people in the 2003 Iraq War.

    No, George, as of 2011 the figure is less than half that.

    Even then, the overwhelming majority of that figure is the responsibility of the Jihadist insurgency.

    The Coalition war against Saddam Hussein was over in a matter of weeks with minimal civilian causalities.

    The real trouble started when the extremist elements in the Middle East couldn’t bear the thought of infidels on Muslim land. Even land once ruled by not-a-very-good-Muslim and a despot whose main victims were his own people and his immediate neighbours i.e. other Muslims.

    Sheer ingratitude if you ask me.

    MSP

  5. Average Joe Bodybuilder Says:

    Hitchens is dead. Galloway is still alive and kicking. The world is much better for it.
    “Even then, the overwhelming majority of that figure is the responsibility of the Jihadist insurgency” – leave it to the fools to lie and make the world a worse place to live. Which again is why we are thankful for Galloway to still be around.

  6. Average Joe Bodybuilder Says:

    “The real trouble started when the extremist elements in the Middle East couldn’t bear the thought of infidels on Muslim land. Even land once ruled by not-a-very-good-Muslim and a despot whose main victims were his own people and his immediate neighbours i.e. other Muslims.”
    – nope dog lover. the real trouble started when an occupying power invaded a sovereign nation that did nothing to it.

    Sheer arrogance, incivility, mendacity and of racism if you ask me.

    • realdevilsadvocate Says:

      Average Joe Builder

      You really don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. Hitchens debates all your points in his argument with Galloway, but I’m sure you skipped past that since you can only bear to listen to the people that you already agree with.

      You say the world is a much better place because Galloway is still alive? The man that was intimate friends with significant parts of the Ba’ath party, the man that supported Assad and told the people of Syria that they were lucky to have him as their President (when they don’t have a say in who their leader is). That man? It’s unfortunate that you truly believe a man of that caliber is worthy of making the world a better place. George Galloway is nothing but a radical Islamist sympathizer that will side with any depraved murderer or nihilist as long as it means he can criticize the U.S. and Great Britain. It doesn’t matter if you committed genocide, killed millions of people, or raped little children, if you hate Bush or Blair, he’s on your side. That is the man you look up to.

      Furthermore the debate was terrible. Hitchen’s opening statement actually laid the groundwork for his argument that the Iraq intervention was just and necessary, leaving one insult that badgered Galloway’s past. Galloway’s entire argument was based on ad hominem attacks on Hitch from the start that devolved the debate into nothing but a pissing contest between the both of them. It was probably the least educational debate I’ve seen by either of them, and the moderators, the debatees, and the audiences have nothing to blame but themselves for that catastrophe.

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