Sunday, March 03, 2013
Denver Post reviews Unhitched posted by Richard Seymour
Quite a friendly review of Unhitched in the Denver Post, despite the cliched caveat. I think I would also protest that while the book considers careerism doesn't actually foreground careerism as the most important motive behind Hitchens's shift. On the contrary, I would assert that it attempts a political and historical explanation of the defection. Anyway:
By apostate, Seymour means one who deserts his own ideology for another, usually at the opposite extreme. Seymour makes a convincing case that Hitchens' sharp turn to the right after 9/11 reflected tendencies that were there all along: Hitchens, the son of a naval officer, always had a soft spot for empire and never cared for many of the features of left-wing politics: anti-Americanism, identity politics, doctrinal disputes. He was also a cultural conservative from the very beginning.
Seymour is withering, in the best Hitchens-like way, about the writer's "fetishizing of the military":
In a piece of rhetorical bravado — or a lie, as it might less politely be called — Hitchens went on to claim that the troops [in post-Katrina New Orleans] "had learned in Iraq matters of civil reconstruction, water distribution, purification that have been extremely useful in New Orleans." Naturally, every word of this was nonsense: the Army Corps of Engineers needed no tour of Iraq, its infrastructure devastated many times over by the occupation, to learn its trade. But the miracles of empire were endless.
Seymour accuses Hitchens of embracing the orthodoxy of the Neoconservatives; but Seymour himself would substitute one orthodoxy for another, that of the English academic left, in which all civilization is worthy of respect except Western civilization, American history is nothing but a narrative of rape and exploitation, and, compared to a rigorous thinker like professor Terry Eagleton, George Orwell is nothing but a dilettante.
In trying to find motivation for Hitchens' turn to the right, Seymour emphasizes the writer's careerism, but he would do better to examine his self-destructiveness. Much of Hitchens' post-9/11 commentary is so crude, so truculent, so bloodthirsty, that it's hard to read it as anything other than a writer trying to destroy his own reputation out of sheer perversity.
I must say I'm very pleased with the attention this is getting in the American press. Even if the fans have had the run of reviews thus far, the other narrative is getting out there.