Do you agree with Christopher Hitchens about The Nation?

Pundit Christopher Hitchens has left The Nation after many years. In his final column he wrote

I thought this could be a good debate topic, since a number of posters read The Nation.

So, is The Nation what Hitchens says it is?

My view (of course,) is to wonder why it took Hitchens so long to wake up and smell the coffee.

I’ve never much liked Christopher Hitchens, but I give him credit for this: he’s never cared who gets offended by what he writes. Even when he’s talking drivel (as he often does), I know it’s honest drivel, inspired by genuine conviction. He’s not afraid to take his principles to their logical conclusions, as many people (on the Left AND the Right are).

Hitchens is simply recognizing something that most people on the Left would prefer to ignore: that militant fundamentalist Islam poses a deadly threat to everything the Left claims to stand for. That OUGHT to be obvious and uncontroversial, but anyone who tries to state that obvious truth is quickly branded a racist or a warmonger.

Look at Pim Forteyn- he was a gay Marxist, for crying out loud, but how was he invariably described in the media? As a “far right” or “ultraconservative” leader! Why? For one reason only: his deep concern about the growing Islamic population in the Netherlands.

Like Hitchens, Forteyn recognized and stated something important: while most on the Left are reflexively sympathetic to “the Third World” and “Non-Western culture,” while most on the Left are relativists who believe no culture of belief system is inherently better than any other, one inconvenient fact remains: if fundamentalist Muslims ever become the majority in Europe (and, demographically, that’s far from impossible), the tolerance and freedom that the European Left loves will be history.

Fonteyn knew (and Hitchens now agrees) that the reflexive, unthinking anti-Americanism and anti-militarism of the Left (at home and abroad) can have dire consequences. One can fairly quibble with individual Bush policies (is Saddam REALLY an important supporter of Al Quaeda? will getting rid of him REALLY aid in the war on terror? might Saddam’s ouster have dangerous, unforeseen consequences? All legitimate questions)… but The Nation and people like Herr Schroder are doing a LOT more than that.

What it comes down to is this: in order to spite George W. Bush, there are people on the Left willing to pretend that fundamentalist Islam is NOT a danger to Western liberalism… some are even willing to pretend that Osama Bin Laden and his followers have a valid point (“NOT that we condone blowing up the WTC, of course… that was NOT a nice thing to do at all”).
Such thinking is, ultimately, suicidal. Hitchens sees that, even if his erstwhile friends at “The Nation” don’t.

Mind you, next week he’ll undoubtedly go back to writing things that piss me off. He always does.

The left is not reflexively anti-American, etc. The left is able to see things from someone else’s point of view in addition to seeing it from their own interests. It is called empathy.

Yes, but “empathy” with terrorists, say (PLEASE NOTE I AM NOT REFERRING TO ANY ETHNIC OR RELIGIOUS GROUP AS TERRORISTS), is evil in and of itself. The only debate is whether anyone is attempting such empathy. I, personally, don’t think anyone in the U.S. is empathetic with terrorists in general at this point, but there are plenty of people who, through ignorance, naievete, or ideological blinders, has not realized the first point, that empathy with evil is an evil unto itself.

Sorry about the caps, guys, but I just know someone will try to imply that I’m racist or bigoted against Islam. I am not.

The right can also do this, the difference is, the right can see the other persons point of view, but not let it stop them from doing what needs to be done, because they can empathize and still make a judgement of what is required for the greater good.

The left IS reflexively anti-American. They will ignore thugs like Robert Mugabe or Saddam Hussein, and then march in protest at the opening of a McDonalds.

In fact, I’d characterize the European left as being rabidly, irrationally anti-American.

I think that the left uses empathy more often and more reflexively to try to come to an understanding of what is going on. My more conservative friends find this really annoying, as in normal circumstances it can result in analyzing the interests of someone else as equal to or greater than our own. That is not to say that we shouldn’t still pursue our own interests, but rather it means that some particular interest may be a higher priority for another than it is for us. For example, it was a higher priority for Kuwaitis to regain their home than for us to vindicate their freedom/independence.

And someone else above was outraged that lefties are able to empathize with terrorists. Empathy is different than sympathy. It is vitally important to understand the twisted logic terrorists use to motivate themselves and see why they might want to do that. It is foolish to go so far as to be emotionally in league with them, which is sympathy, not empathy. I think an excellent example of this is that Ann Coulter pretends that liberals have sympathy with the terrorists. Liberal Americans have zero sympathy with the 9/11 terrorists. But liberals are more than willing to have a conversation in which the motivation of the terrorists is discussed from the terrorist point of view. Coulterists seem to view this as a form of treason. Now I know that nobody here takes wacko Annie seriously (with the exceptions that others will now proudly complain), but let’s keep in mind, that the reading public has made her the nation’s number 1 best seller. Yes, Virginia, 50 million Elvis fans can be wrong.

I agree with Christopher Hitchens that debate in the Left has degenerated greatly. It’s not really debate anymore, merely pogroms against others in the Left, shoutfests or incessant preaching to the choir.

Pick up some of the magazines of the Right (National Review or American Spectator) and you’ll find much more real debate than you’ll ever find in The Nation.

I fully support Christopher Hitchens’ decision to leave The Nation. I would indeed encourage him to review the positions of all the media outlets with which he is affiliated, and leave all of those which do not meet his rigorous standards. If that should mean that he is no longer published, his very silence would stand in sharp rebuke to them all. JDM

Well, no. I am not a conservative, btw, but a libertarian pragmatist (there’s some overlap of views, of course, but I want to reject your implied binary classification as early as possible). I don’t mind an analysis of what someone would do if they considered their own needs before my own, because, in fact, everyone always considers their own needs before others. This is proper reasoning. However, “empathy” is not reasoning but precisely the opposite - it’s an excuse to inject emotional content into your rational analysis, which is detrimental.

A large portion of the proposed “Kuwaiti interest” in the previous Gulf War involved the Kuwaiti monarchy attempting to preserve its rulership. If we, the US, had not been blinded by false “empathy”, our response would have been:

  1. Kill Saddam
    2 .Leave

Okay, so you want to understand the logic that terroists use? See above: Everyone always acts primarily in their own self interest, or what they perceive to be their best interests. One needs only a rational understanding of their motivation, plus that principle, to understand them. One does not need to ask why they consider themselves in the right, because of course they do, and so does everyone else. In cidentally, if you want to say, now, that you distinguish between empathy and sympathy, that’s fine, but it isn’t apparent in your original post.

[snipped a bunch of stuff about Ann Coulter]

Here’s somewhere that we can agree: Ann Coulter is a fucking idiot. She’s also a pure oppurtunist. She wants to be famous, she wants to make a bunch of money from her fame, so she says whatever is most likely to result in more people saying the name “Ann Coulter”, rather than making a reasoned argument. It’s frightening that some people agree with her, yes, but is’s just as frightening how many people were just rabid to find some demon that they could use to claim that, somehow, all conservatives are exactly like that.

I was all in favor of going on the Bagdad in 1991 and hanging Saddam in a window. The very same people who insist on doing it now, insisted on not doing it then, when the conditions were quite ripe. Some of those very same people then made a ton of money rebuilding Iraq. To say that I am cynical about their motives does not begin to describe my feelings.

As a liberal (feel free to call me a lefty, but that is really somehting different, like the Marxist Hitchens), I have only once read an issue of The Nation and only occasionally perused it since, which I considered utterly irrelevant to liberalism in America. The American Prospect is a far better magazine than any cited above for liberal thought.

For me, The Nation was a Marxist attack on liberalism. And Hitchens, whom I became aware of about eight years ago, is quite a lively writer of character assassinations, but that isn’t my cup of tea. I could certainly see why he liked working at The Nation.

“What it comes down to is this: in order to spite George W. Bush, there are people on the Left willing to pretend that fundamentalist Islam is NOT a danger to Western liberalism”

Maybe they are just not willing to agree that it’s any worse than fundamentalist Christianity. In fact the fundy-Xers are more worrisome in that they live down the street and get elected to public office. When are people going to get it through their thick skull that when it comes to the realpolitik religion is completely meaningless window dressing. Is anyone here stupid enough to think that Suddam invaded Kuwait because he thought it was Allah’s will? Please.



So that’s three things, then. I still think you’re wrong on the empathy/sympathy business, though.

I think the American Left is in serious trouble right now. And I speak as a pretty committed liberal. Hitchens and The Nation are just the tip of the iceberg – IMHO the Left has basically lost its ideological footing and has resorted to finger-pointing and name-calling. Basically, it isn’t fun to be a Democrat anymore. It ceased being fun after January 2000, and really took a turn for the miserable in the months after last September.

The traditional empathy of the left is manifest in a focus on root causes. I find that conservatives tend to favor action on consequences rather than root causes. Obviously what probably works the best is to do both. Build new prisons, increase police forces, but also give more after-school programs, job rehab, etc. in order to decrease crime. In the war on terrorism this takes the form of addressing issues behind worldwide anti-Americanism (which leads to painful self-reflection) versus unilateral action against Arab and Muslim targets. I oversimplify a bit but you get the point. One is a lot easier to do than the other.

The balance of action on root causes versus consequence-based actions has seemed to work well up until last September. Unfortunately, after the attacks, root-cause action fell very very much out of fashion. The American Left is in trouble right now because the events of last September were heinous enough to push us all into a reactionary mode: who can we kill to make this better? What kind of revenge can we get on those responsible?

That call worked well for about a year with the vast majority of Americans. Now, we are starting to see the first liberals piping up about root causes. Most Americans are still quite reactionary, and the standard political attack is that those piping up do not care about American security, are not patriotic, are commiting treason, etc. So the bulk of the Democrats are avoiding the issue altogether, at a point where we need serious debate on how to make our nation more secure. Stay away from thorny issues this close to midterm elections, agree with whatever is the most popular viewpoint for votes, etc. And it makes them look like chickens. Which they are. Like most politicians.

The fact is that security from terrorism is the most important issue on the table. The majority of Americans are still reactionary, and the Republican reactionary actions are all the rage. Now we are starting to move into phase 2, where we structure ourselves for a long-term fight not only against al Qaida but against all violent anti-American terrorists around the world. Now we start to structure our government to ensure the security of the American people. Will deposing Saddam give us more security? Should we give the President very broad powers to conduct large scale, long term operations against other countries based on a perceived threat, without divulging any reasons to the American people, let alone the international community? Is it in the best interests of liberty to suspend due process to those suspected of terrorism or treason? Is it necessary to compromise workers’ rights in order to create a new arm of highly-efficient, nebulously defined bureaucracy overseeing “Homeland Security?”

I obviously answer “no” to these questions. This opens me to criticism of not putting the American people first, etc. If I were running for office, I could very well see how this would hurt me severely. I don’t think that I would sacrifice my viewpoints and vote in the affirmative on the Department of Homeland Security package or the Iraq war resolutions to ensure popularity. But many Democrats (being politicians) are going to do exactly this. Because Bush criticizes them for politicizing (i.e. raising a stink) about broad-ranging, poorly-debated, powerful legislation. Iraq resolutions written so “the boys in Lubbock” can understand them. Because the Dems caving to labor union pressure in the OHS legislation is somehow far worse than the Reps caving to defense contractor pressure.

I rant. The Democrat ideology is not popular right now. The Left is stuck in a rut, and resorts to the old mudslinging and character assasination instead of taking firm stands on their currently unpopular but perhaps forward-thinking ideology. Things are not real fun right now.

I agree wholeheartedly. I’m pretty conservative, so I’m far from an unbiased opinion, but reading The Nation is like reading commentary from a flock of parrots right after they sat through the DNC. National Review, though, in particular (which I read every chance I get - Jonah Goldberg is without a doubt my favorite political commentator) has dissenting opinions all the time. Everyone there has differing views on how exactly things should be done, and they argue with each other in a well-reasoned manner. I would recommend it even to liberals, as a way to get a good feel for how varied the republican base is in their opinions.

Quick question: Who’s more likely to strap dynamite to themselves and detonate in your living room - Pat Robertson, or a follower of Bin Laden?

I’ll have to disagree with this. It’s not that conservatives prefer to ignore root causes, we just typically have different ideas of what the root causes are, and different ideas of how the causes should be addressed. With the terrorist situation as an example, it’s not that Republicans are ignoring our past foreign policies, and choosing to just blow up the problem rather than address it. They’ve (generally speaking) just looked at the past foreign policies, and decided that these policies aren’t the primary reason that terrorists want to kill us - the prime reasons have more to do with the basics of militant fundamentalist Islam, and a desire to “protect” themselves from Western values (or, in their eyes, the lack of Western values). Now, there’s certainly room for debate on whether or not the Republican assessment is accurate, but to say that we are ignoring the causes in favor of acting on the consequences is inaccurate.


"Quick question: Who’s more likely to strap dynamite to themselves and detonate in your living room - Pat Robertson, or a follower of Bin Laden? "

Well I’m sure if we crunched the numbers, here in North America most of us are more likely to hit the lottery than either one of them(I assume you also meant a follower of Pat Robertson)By the way do I get to count bombing abortion clinics and shooting doctors when we are compiling our “who’s the better zealot” stats?

Anti-American? Maybe anti-policy, maybe anti-right wing, maybe anti-Administration but why is any off this anti-American?

Why is criticising Anti-American? Are people in the States expected to go along with policies they do not agree with? Land of the free, home of free speech and I hear a lot of critics being described as Anti-American all because they feel that Americans should doing something different than how the current Administration is handling things.

As for Europeans being anti-Americans well there are a lot of idiots who may say that over here but in general they when pushed would just rattle off the clichéd nonsense that " wannabe radicals" always do. Most people I know aren’t happy with a lot of US policy but to call this anti-American is ridiculous.

The whole concept of being Anti-{whatever country you’re from} is quite alien over here to tell you the truth. You agree with the government of not, you can totally disagree with how your country is moving but you still wouldn’t be branded as anti-that country.

It really annoys me that so many of you over there have the idea that we’re anti-American just because we disagree with your policies regarding certain areas.

Well, of course it’s ant-American, yojimbo. Even most of us 'Merkins are “anti”, depending on which face of America is presented. (So, we contradict ourselves. America, like Walt Whitman, is large. We contain multitudes.)

For example, I’m a friend of America the Republic, and quite supportive of America the World Citizen, but I’m ambivalent about America the Cultural Exemplar and quite antagonistic toward America the Hegemon. I can be passionate in defense of America the Representative Democracy. I quite like America the Technological Innovator as well.

Which one would you like to criticize? I’m game to either argue with you or join in.

I don’t particualry want to argue with any of you xenophon41 it’s just posts like this come up a lot.

It seems some people cannot separate things. It’s a 100% black or white thing. Nothing is ever like that IMO. The Anti-American label is too often rolled out and says more to me about the user that anything else.

Sorry about the hijack.

One can oppose American culture or foreign policy; that’s not “anti-American.” What I would consider “anti-American” is a reflexive tendency to assume that America is wrong.

As Ann Coulter pointed out, our enemies in Iraq, al Qaeda, etc. are evil fundamentalists – a group liberals generally oppose. Yet some American liberals and some Europeans show sympathy to these enemies, presumably because they are America’s enemies. That’s an instance of anti-Americanism.