I certainly admired much his writing, his style and prose were captivating even when I disagreed with the content. I respected his no-holds-barred dislike of religions and religious belief. His passionate distaste for all religions led to some of his most controversial comments; his belief we ought to simply bomb Islam out of existence, for example.
So while many of us praise Hitchens for his unapologetic atheism, we ought not ignore the ways in which he failed to live up to our expectations as a humanitarian.
Another writer I respect said today,
Nor should anyone be deterred by the manipulative, somewhat tyrannical use of sympathy: designed to render any post-death criticisms gauche and forbidden. Those hailing Hitchens’ greatness are engaged in a very public, affirmative, politically consequential effort to depict him as someone worthy of homage. That’s fine: Hitchens, like most people, did have admirable traits, impressive accomplishments, genuine talents and a periodic willingness to expose himself to danger to report on issues about which he was writing. But demanding in the name of politeness or civility that none of that be balanced or refuted by other facts is to demand a monopoly on how a consequential figure is remembered, to demand a license to propagandize...
There’s one other aspect to the adulation of Hitchens that’s quite revealing. There seems to be this sense that his excellent facility with prose excuses his sins. Part of that is the by-product of America’s refusal to come to terms with just how heinous and destructive was the attack on Iraq. That act of aggression is still viewed as a mere run-of-the-mill “mistake” — hey, we all make them, so we shouldn’t hold it against Hitch – rather than what it is: the generation’s worst political crime, one for which he remained fully unrepentant and even proud. But what these paeans to Hitchens reflect even more so is the warped values of our political and media culture: once someone is sufficiently embedded within that circle, they are intrinsically worthy of admiration and respect, no matter what it is that they actually do.
Click over to Salon and read Glenn Greewald's extensive and brutally honest comments on the life and political attitudes of Christopher Hitchens.