Tributes to the Hitch flow in around this time every year to mark the anniversary of his passing on December 15, 2011, and often it is said that we miss him more than ever. How delectable his writings on Donald Trump would have been! Maybe, but Hitchens was nobody’s performing seal. What would this iconoclast have to say, for instance, about the book tour launched by the sainted Michelle Obama? Here he is on the then-Michelle Robinson’s Princeton thesis:
I direct your attention to Mrs. Obama’s 1985 thesis at Princeton University. Its title (rather limited in scope, given the author and the campus) is ‘Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community.’ To describe it as hard to read would be a mistake; the thesis cannot be ‘read’ at all, in the strict sense of the verb. This is because it wasn’t written in any known language.
(Spengler has a post in which he goes into more detail about how bad that thesis is.)
What would Hitchens say if he were with us today? I don’t know, but my guess is he’d have a lot of difficulty saying it, because any number of things he wrote in the pre-Twitter era would have caused the social-justice left to demand that Slate, Vanity Fair and The Atlantic cease publishing him. The sacred-cow abattoir that is Hitchens’s style inspires fond memories now but it would have inspired siege-of-Leningrad-level outrage campaigns against him. His willingness to give offense makes Tucker Carlson look like the vice president for inclusion at Oberlin. “Why,” the Hitch once wrote, “are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy, not funny? Please do not pretend not to know what I am talking about.”
Today our expectation is that Hitchens would have mocked Trump as relentlessly and obsessively as SNL or Stephen Colbert. But Hitchens delighted in subverting expectations. He didn’t ingratiate himself with his readers. He invited us into conflict with him, hoped that many of us would respond to his latest broadside the way he responded to each day’s offering of the New York Times, of which he said, “I credit this daily infusion of annoyance with extending my lifespan.”