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Preston Jones

Uncompromising Positions

Hitchens and Orwell

In an interview with Brian Lamb of C-SPAN, Christopher Hitchens said that his chief motivation for writing is rage—rage against political corruption, media distortion of reality, and the culture of death in its many manifestations. Read the man awhile and you're inclined to believe him. Hitchens' writing combines detached bemusement with wit, irony, anger, independence, and, at his best, genuine moral outrage.

In Unacknowledged Legislation, a sometimes boring, sometimes stellar collection of essays and reviews, Hitchens refers to Princess Diana's divorce attorney as a "shyster lawyer for a gold-digging airhead." In Letters to a Young Contrarian, a primer on how to be a genuine nonconformist, the Dalai Lama is junked for his "fatuous non sequiturs" and Blaise Pascal takes it in the slats for his "trashy casuistry." Elsewhere Hitchens calls Tom Clancy a "junk supplier of surrogate testosterone," Pope John Paul II an "authoritarian," Billy Graham a dispenser of "harangues," Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., a "polka-dotted popinjay," T. S. Eliot an anti-Semite, and the late Queen Mother a tipsy ditz with a thing, in her early days, for fascists.

The Missionary Position, a savage critique of Mother Teresa, advises us that the "elderly virgin" was a "demagogue, an obscurantist, and a servant of earthly powers," a front for dictatorial and reactionary governments, an agent of oppression (she encouraged those under her care to accept their lot as the will of God), and a thief (where did the bundles of cash sent to her go?). "At the direct request of the Vatican," he writes in the introduction to Letters, several years later, "I was invited to give evidence for the opposing side in the hearings on Mother Teresa's impending canonization. It was an astonishing opportunity to play Devil's Advocate in the literal sense, and I must say that the Church behaved with infinitely more care and scruple than my liberal critics."

Upping the ante, the purpose of The Trial of Henry Kissinger is to goad ...

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