Friday, 22 June 2007

Thoughts on the Hitchens brothers

Shirley Williams was undaunted by three boors plus Tony McNulty on Question Time. Boris Johnson, whom incidentally I often spot cycling in Westminster, did his usual buffoon act which is likeable enough I suppose. The two Hitchens brothers were another matter.
Peter's angular features and humourless glare reminded me somehow of Cully in T H White's The Sword in the Stone (look it up boy, look it up). With perfect public-school diction and authoritative delivery, out rolled some absolutely barking mad sentiments, particularly on the sovereignty of states which for some reason he regards as an unalloyed good, hence his intemperate rant against the European Union.
Christopher sat glowering, sweating and red-faced. Almost every time Shirley spoke, he interrupted. When she objected to this, did I really hear him telling her not to be so self-important? Excuse me, Christopher, even if Shirley were not brilliant and especially qualified to speak on public affairs by her record of electoral success (unlike you), she is a fellow panellist on Question Time so you shut up and let her have her say.
Christopher's style reminded me of Ed Husain's description in The Islamist of debates between the Hizb ut-Tahrir leader Farid Kasim and the president of the National Secular Society, Barbara Smoker. The latter was "constantly jeered, mocked and patronized by a travelling crowd of Hizb apparatchiks... Farid's lack of grace in those debates was notorious. And we loved it. Our style of debate and discussion was confrontational, designed to provoke outrage, to "destroy concepts", as we called it..."
Christopher and Peter Hitchens, I learn via Google, are sons of a Naval officer and products of a Cambridge public school. Christopher is a Balliol man, graduating with a Third (to demonstrate his contempt for the system perhaps?) It is the prerogative of such people, because they were born to lead and trained to have total self-belief, to spout forth fluently, and often in published print, ideas which, if the hoi polloi were to express them, would be quickly branded complete tosh. But Christopher and Peter say it so confidently! So that's all right then. And Christopher being abominably rude is fine. Carry on, gentlemen.


Paul Walter said...

I thought it was funny when C Hitchens attacked Shirl for "what you dind't say" rather than what she said. Surreal.

Jo Hayes said...

Yes. Shall I in like vein attack him for what he didn't say when he spoke in support of Salman Rushdie's knighthood - that he has been friends with Rushdie for years and thus was not speaking disinterestedly? No, on second thoughts it would only encourage him to talk even more.