Thursday, December 07, 2006

This one's for the ladies.

A warning, from the depths: the slovenly refashioning of conventional opinion as artful contrarianism doesn't get any better with age.

Women are slow to get humour, and backward in generating it, and scientific research says so. Not, readers, the verdict of some resentfully boorish snob of vaulting ambition writing in the Daily Telegraph, but that of a resentfully boorish snob of vaulting ambition writing for Vanity Fair. Steven Poole and Dennis Perrin are in stitches.

Conrad wrote that "women, children and revolutionaries have no taste for irony", a version of which is repeated by all reactionary men when women and children and revolutionaries don't find them funny. One can all too easily picture the blank stares and bemused gazing at feet that prompts Hitchens to feel this way. However, that is to miss the point: Hitchens is simply flattering his new audience, whom he has carefully cultivated. He started this with a low growl during his affiliation with a Republican party of unimpeachably probity, amplified it to a dull roar at the turn of the millenium when he found that capitalism was more revolutionary than its opponents, and finally, after 9/11 - and with a great, barbaric yawp - he set himself to the Empire State building, raised a magnificent fist aloft, and began howling his new dispensations to a stunned and thrilled planet as he climbed. Now clinging to the spire, amid a cluster of New York television broadcasting devices, he has the female in his grasp. Nothing can stop him now.

It's all about his upward mobility. Hitchens's petit-bourgeois mother is alleged by him to have said, "If there is going to be a ruling class in this country, then Christopher is going to be in it." Poor old Peter didn't make the cut, then. She might not have been joking, but through her offspring, she's been taking the piss ever since.