Thursday, September 26, 2002

HITCHENS, NATION SPLIT! I've been permalinking to The Nation for the past year, not so much because I agree with most of its ultra-left-wing sensibilities -- I rarely do -- but because, when it came to covering the theft of the 2000 presidential election, they were on the side of the angels. Even those voters who were genuinely pleased -- or relieved -- to see Bush in the White House know, in their dark heart of hearts, that the outcome of the election did not represent the will of the people at that time. Small and shrill though it may be, The Nation was one of the few voices which refused to be stifled by those who insisted that the "get over it" argument trumps constitutional law and fair play, and I commend them for their efforts.

On the other hand, I've been infuriated with Christopher Hitchens more often than impressed. For sure, he gets a great many points for eloquence, but an equal number of demerits for each time he's denounced President Clinton as the "Rapist In Chief" -- one of countless scurrilous accusations that was just as likely as not fabricated (or "reimagined") by Clinton's political enemies -- purely for the shock value. Criticize the former President for his politics if you disagree with them; condemn him for the private behavior he's copped to, if you think it's that big a deal. But you don't matter-of-factly tar someone with criminal charges that remain, to this day, not only unproven but so utterly within the realm of hearsay that they are forever unprovable. (As "B" remarked to me recently, the plural of "anecdote" is not "facts.")

All that said, Hitchens' grasp on reality has lately become eminently sensible and commendable. Having weighed in squarely right of center on countering terrorism in general and "regime change" in particular -- in marked contrast to the stance of his publisher and colleagues -- I was beginning to wonder how much longer The Nation would put up with him.

Whoops. Got that one backward. Today, Christopher Hitchens announced that he has fired The Nation. His final column is not on-line at this writing, but Associated Press has the scoop, and quotes Hitch as follows:

"When I began work for The Nation over two decades ago, Victor Navasky described the magazine as a debating ground between liberals and radicals, which was, I thought, well judged," Hitchens writes.

"In the past few weeks, though, I have come to realize that the magazine itself takes a side in this argument, and is becoming the voice and the echo chamber of those who truly believe that John Ashcroft is a greater menace than Osama bin Laden."

Look. I think John Ashcroft is a uptight prick who has some really mixed-up priorities. But for all the whining that goes on about John Ashcroft in lefty circles, not a single person among them has been arrested and detained for speaking out against the menace of John Ashcroft.

That's how our democracy works. A small group of people hold office; We The People debate the issues, arrive at some abstract consensus, bend the office-holders to our collective will, and kick them out if they fail to perform to our satisfaction.

On the day this process fails and Ashcroft starts rounding up dissenters without charge or trial, I'll join my comrades in solidarity, in protest, and -- if it comes to it -- in Gitmo. In the meantime, Hitch and I have much scarier boogiemen to worry about.


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