Rejoicing in Christopher Hitchens’ cancer - Macleans.ca
 

Rejoicing in Christopher Hitchens’ cancer

U of L’s media coordinator of globalization studies says diagnosis is a ‘boon to humanity’


 

When U.S. right-wing pundit Ann Coulter attempted to speak at the University of Ottawa in March, protesters gathered outside the lecture hall and effectively shut down the event. The crowd boasted signs branded with “Love,” “Respect,” and  “Free Speech Stops at Hate Speech,” and chanted “Ann go home!” until police and security advised Coulter to cancel her speech in the interest of her safety. The demonstration came after University of Ottawa vice-president academic and provost Francois Houle sent Coulter a letter advising her to “educate [her]self as to what is acceptable in Canada” and to “weigh [her] words with respect and civility in mind.”

Now, I cite this example in hopes that the security personnel at the University of Lethbridge will be adequately prepared for what I expect to be another vehement uproar. Indeed, I’ll bet those same demonstrative individuals are already making their way west to protest yet another exploitative exercise of expression. “Free speech stops at hate speech!” Yup  . . . any day now . . .

Well, maybe they just haven’t heard yet. Joshua Blakeney, media coordinator of globalization studies at the University of Lethbridge, has written a piece for the alternative e-weekly The Canadian Charger where he gleefully rejoices in Christopher Hitchens’ recent throat cancer diagnosis. Hitchens, a journalist and pundit, is known for his stanch views on religion and unapologetic support for the war in Iraq. Contentious as his politics may be, it’s hard to deny he’s a brilliant speaker with a quick wit, a reputation he managed to uphold during a recent interview with Anderson Cooper where Hitchens discusses his impending death.

But for Blakeney writing in The Canadian Charger, it seems “impending” can’t come soon enough. The cancer is “something to be celebrated,” writes Blakeney, a U of L Masters student, “because it deprives the war propaganda machine of one of its most erudite apologists.”

“As I was contemplating this revelation, I couldn’t help feeling that the neoconservative armchair warrior was getting his just desserts,” Blakeney continues.

Then, after toting some 9/11 “truths” (Blakeney studies under prominent 9/11 conspiracy theorist Prof. Anthony J. Hall) and other wisdom about Iran and Israel, Blakeney concludes his “Hitchens deserves to die” thesis:

“It is fair to say that if cancer is good enough for babies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and soon Iran, then it is good enough for [Hitchens].”

Ironically, The Canadian Charger originated as an outlet to counter “hateful” messages printed in Maclean’s magazine, which were brought to (and later dismissed from) human rights commissions. Yet curiously, here beholds a piece where the terminal illness of someone is rejoiced because of his political beliefs.

“I wouldn’t rejoice in someone’s sickness unless it was someone as ghastly as Christopher Hitchens,” Blakeney told the National Post. His inability to write “could well reduce cancer rates,” he continued. “He is a dangerous demagogue who made a career out of selling aggressive wars that cause cancer. . . . I haven’t stooped to his level.”

Okay everyone; are we all ready with our placards? “Love,” “Respect,” “Free speech stops at hate speech!”

No?

Of course not. Blakeney’s not entertaining in hate speech. Fallacious and vile cheap shots, but not hate speech. But then again, neither was Coulter. So I’m wondering where the student unions are on this one. Where’s the protest to ensure a “safe space” for Iraq war supporters on campus?  After all, if we have the so-called “right to not be offended” in one case, aren’t we going to uphold it in another?


 

Rejoicing in Christopher Hitchens’ cancer

  1. While I think that Blakeney’s comments probably crossed a line, I don’t at all see what this has to do with the Ann Coulter sitaution. While Blakeney is employed by UofL, his comments were not published in a university publication nor did he give a talk on university property about the his views on Hitchen’s illness. Certainly there’s a difference between this and the Coulter situation and it definitely seems like you’re grasping to connect two very different incidents.

    I also think that there is plenty of room to debate whether or not Hitchens is witty or an engaging speaker/writer.

  2. Blakeney argues that it is okay to revel in Hitchen’s cancer because Hitchens himself has attacked those who were sick and dying or had died.

    But that seems to blur a key distinction. I have no problem with someone attacking Hitchens’ ideas though he has cancer. Nor should Hitchens’ views be exempt from criticism after he is gone. But delighting in the fact that one’s enemy has cancer and is dying seems to be in bad taste.

  3. Indecency is just plain wrong. Picking on a serious illness instead of opinions and views is unfair and shows psychological problems and low character !

  4. Blakeney misses the point entirely.

    First, Hitchens is not a neocon, nor is he a Marxist. His politics and principles have been consistently liberal throughout his career. He despises tyranny, the oppression by the few of the many, and the utopian lie that they circulate in order to perpetuate their unjust rule. This has manifested itself in his work on organized religion (both reactionaries of the Christian and Islamist sort), the Dirty War in Argentina, the revolution in Portugal, Kissinger, etc.

    Second, Hitchens is not remotely analogous to Ann Coulter. Coulter is the lowest sort of political pundit, spouting thinly-disguised racial epithets and uninformed jingoist nonsense in order to attract an audience — the right-wing nut-jobs love her because she gets away with saying what they lack the courage or conviction to, and the left wing hate her because people seem to take seriously her laughably insane prattle. Christopher Hitchens is incredibly informed and is not a racist – agree with him or not, you can’t help but learn a tremendous amount from him.

    Third, he’s dying of cancer. Your feelings about this are your own business, but being publicly gleeful because you have no chance of beating him in a debate, and are thus counting off the seconds until his expiration so that you can safely slander him seems somehow cowardly.

  5. Mr. Keefer, I could not agree with you more. I have long admired Christopher Hitchens. He is not only a master of the English language both verbal and written, but generally applies intellectual rigor to his arguments, however unpopular. To compare him with an empty-headed hate-monger like Ann Coulter is to entirely miss the point.

    Also, to verily writhe in glee at the physical suffering of another says far more about Mr. Blakeney’s cowardice than it does about Mr. Hitchen’s often controversial views. It would surprise me not at all if Mr. Blakeney is also of the pious persuasion. Several websites are devoted to the hope that Christopher Hitchens not only suffers and dies in pain, but is, of course, condemned to eternal damnation. I worry not one whit about Mr. Hitchen’s soul and I have long applauded his willingness to question the one school of human thought (i.e., religion), which so many are loathe to question. When Christopher Hitchens departs this earth, we are losing a true and brave public intellect – and in a world increasingly populated by Sarah Palins, Ann Coulters and Joshua Blakeneys, we have precious few of those to lose.

  6. It’s very clearly time to clean house at the University of Lethbridge.

    With Anthony Hall clearly peddling his extremely-academically-dubious 9/11 theories to his students and embarrassing his institution with letters to the editor, it’s time for Hall to depart.

  7. Oooooy… It’s obvious that this Blakeney fellow will be our Canadian left-wing equivalent of Ann Coulter; rude, insensitive, and just downright wrong.

  8. Hitchens has helped cause painful death, rape, and beatings of countless millions.

    Do people love Hitchens? Of course, he’s one of the few non-idiot neocons. These same people would hate the Hitchens of the past. Hitchens of the past was unknown and attached to justice. The new Hitchens is attached to lying in order to sell wars, regardless of how many people get raped and killed. The new Hitchens got something else, fame and money. He’s a sellout.

    So to be happy to see this monster getting what he deserved is neither “out of line” nor in “bad taste.”

    Here is the original article by Blakeney: http://www.thecanadiancharger.com/page.php?id=5&a=535

    Here is a debate between Chomsky and Hitchens: http://humanities.psydeshow.org/political/chomsky-1.htm

  9. John Smith – So we all have to wear the consequences of every policy we support no matter whether we take that position in good faith? Seems ridiculous to me and if we got creative enough arguments could be made that we would all have blood on our hand for this or that position. Do we get to deduct the lives we saved? Because if so it may be too early to give a final opinion on Hitchens as we’ll have to see how the anti-theism movement him and Dawkins et al have reinvigorated will save over time.

    I don’t agree with Hitchens’ position re: Iraq (I adamantly opposed that war) but there is no doubt in my mind that he was genuine in his belief that it was the “right” thing to do. He didn’t do it like Bush, et al did with the pretty obvious motive of profit but rather because he actually believed that it would prevent even greater death and destruction in the future.

    I only have so much sympathy for Hitch to the extent that he himself has “danced on the graves” of the likes of Mother Theresa and Jerry Falwell; but the suggestion that taking a political position we disagree with validates any glee we take at their demise is ridiculous.

  10. First, I really don’t see the comparison, given that these situations are completely different.

    I can’t help but feel that when it comes to Christopher Hitchens, what goes around comes around.

    Hitchens is one of the intellectuals who played a key role in trying to build a left-liberal “justification” for the recent round of war and imperialism over the past ten years or so – a project built as much on smug condescension and couching reactionary arguments in vaguely liberal or leftist language as on any solid intellectual footing. As such, people like Hitchens, Ignatieff, the Eustonites, etc., have quite a bit of blood on their hands, and in the case of folks like Hitchens and Terry Glavin (I’d say his closest Canadian equivalent), as a leftie, I can do without their smug, condescending “I-used-to-be-like-you-but-then-I-saw-the-light” and “the problem with the left today is that they don’t support war, imperialism, etc.” These folks get a disproportionate amount of attention because it’s a new twist on the same corporate media consensus. As an example, Nick Cohen, before he started endorsing the Iraq war, prophetically wrote that “Former lefties can make a good living in the media by attacking their ex-comrades – I’d do it myself if the price was right.”

    But, even ignoring all of the political positions he has taken and all of his apologism for war and imperialism, Hitchens has written some pretty nasty things about other public figures as they died, such as Jerry Falwell (only slightly more odious than Hitchens in my books). What goes around comes around, and I suspect that Hitchens revels in this kind of criticism, and perhaps can milk it for an article or two.

    Also, as a bit of leftist trainspotting, this whole “ex-Trot, now neo-con” shtick isn’t exactly new. It seems to be a warmed over Shactmanism for the new imperialism of the 21st century, supported mainly on a few UK blogs and among the media’s token ex-lefties.

  11. quote: “Where’s the protest to ensure a “safe space” for Iraq war supporters on campus?”

    – are there any of those here in canada? where? omg, i’d need to take my camera with me because that would be a very bizarre thing to see in a campus here…

  12. Good for Mr. Blakeney. He has the honesty to admit publically what most of his fellow idiots cannot: that Christopher Hitchens has effortlessly demolished the intellectual sandcastles they call arguments, is standing, laughing, over their soggy remains, and can only be removed from the field by death. He is right to rejoice, because soon he will be able to pollute the air with the noxious vapours he calls thought without attracting the cleansing wind of Hitchens to refresh us all.

    But perhaps he should not be too smug. Hitchens will leave us all with the gift of his written and recorded insights, available to any who might want to counter the manifest stupidity of Blakeney and his chums. Hate to break it to you, Blakeney, but the most important part of Hitchens isn’t going anywhere.

  13. Unfortunately when someone gloats over the painful death of someone else they have provided all of us with a true show of thier innersole.
    They have become even worst then what they hate because they have seen the affects of the bad behavior and have openly decided to emulate it.

  14. If Hitchens were dying of AIDS contracted from homosexual sex, would Blakeney be celebrating?

  15. This just goes to show that education system in North-Amerika needs to be bailed out so that it can enhance technics of debate and dialog about the ideas that people express and not about people who express them. There seems to be a trend that is emerging in our chaotic and hyper stressed out North Amerika that is circumventing human decency and replacing it by blatant meaness, ignorance and narcissism that emphasizes hate. The people who express such hate need to understand that what goes around comes around when one least expects it. But what can we say, human narcissism seems to have an upper hand in today’s mixed up world and being right is more important that understanding someone else’s opinion and where he or she comes from and how they formed such opinions.

  16. re: stab humper

    Not to Godwin this thread, but does that mean that anyone who expresses gratitude that Hitler is dead is “worst then” Hitler?

  17. I would never rejoice in the misery of another. Having said that, I fail to see what many others seem to freely accept, Hitchens’ powerful intellect.

    His tenuous arguments, specifically his love of weak inductive reasoning, his name-calling (referring to opponents as “termites), his endless streams of irrelevencies, and his waffling, all indicate careless irrational thinking.

    Nevertheless I hope he is successful in his personal battle with sickness.

  18. re: bill

    being relieved that someone were dead like Hitler can be justified by all of his horrendous acts on humanity, 6,000,000+ jews.
    but wishing someone a painful death, well i for one think it puts
    you at an even lower level that that which you hate.

  19. So, what if that person is partially responsible for horrendous acts of humanity as well? At what point do we draw the line at saying it’s okay as long as the person was really really bad? How bad does the person have to be?

    I’m not wishing him a painful death, but I can’t help but feel that if the imperialist war machine loses one of its more skillful propagandists, that might not be a terrible thing.

  20. There’s a university in Lethbridge? And they have a newspaper? Wow, where have I been?

  21. Why are we so quick to try to stop people from speaking their minds? If we believe in free speech, then why stop Blakeney, Hitchens or Coulter from speaking? People should be allowed to say whatever they want, if they have evidence for what they believe then make them show it, if they don’t then prove them wrong. If you don’t follow that path, then as soon as you disagree with the majority line, someone will tell you that you’re not allowed to say what you think.

  22. Agnostic,

    I don’t believe in unbridled free speech. If you want to be American, move to America. Canada is a socially liberal country. That is who we are and that’s how we will stay.

    Extremists are crucified and order is restored.

  23. Atheist. Interesting…you say “extremists are crucified and order is restored” and you think my opinion is extreme? Canada doesn’t kill people for their ideas being extreme, if you want to be Iranian, move to Iran.

  24. I forgot to mention that even though I think your opinion is ignorant, I would fight to the death for your right to speak it.

  25. Cool article. Found a typo for you: “stanch views” should be “staunch views”.

  26. I totally agree that it’s perfectly okay to rejoice in the death of others. My working years were split between being a military pilot and a special operations contractor for the US Federal Government. Both jobs were about the death of others and I enjoyed the killing. It was a source of pure pleasure. I miss it something awful. Not once during the last half of my career did I meet a man I couldn’t corrupt with money, sex or drugs. There were always three very distinct taciturn forces at work, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. – To summarize: Hitler’s Auschwitz & Bush’s Abu Ghraib epitomize Christianity. Christians are hypocrites who travel in herds, but are without the loyalty. Islamists are extremely dangerous because, unlike the Christians, they believe the dogma. Judaism is the study of diversion, coercion, and manipulation. Jews are the alpha predators because their Gods are intellect, money and power. They use these Gods to pit the Christians and Islamists against themselves as well as each other.

  27. When you’re in Jim Keegstra country you’re already walking on thin ice, but this guy Blakeney seems to have problem with intellectuals — and especially intellectuals who can string together very readable sentences.

    I can’t actually read more than a couple of sentences of Blakeney’s anti Hitchens paper without counselling myself not to throw a rock at my laptop. The French have a good expression — Colisse, Blakeney ca c’est un nulle! Oui, certainne.

    I guess you can get your computer to translate the above, amazing things these computers are. Obviously, if you actually had to pay for the paper, Blakeney’s anti-Hitchen thoughts would be limited to pamphlets and post-it notes.

  28. Pingback: Rejoicing in Christopher Hitchens’ cancer | Robyn Urback

  29. Hello,

    I have just read this revolting attack on Christopher Hitchens. I admire Christopher greatly and have read some of his books. As a logical Christian I agree of most of what he says and can quite understand why he feels the way he does towards many Christians and the Church as an institution. Methinks Jesus would prefer Christopher to many so-called Christians.

    As for Robyn Urback or whatever her name is she should be ashamed.

    Heather Stallard

  30. Hello again,

    Sorry Robyn Urback, I mean Joshua Blakeney should be deeply ashamed of himself. Remember ‘whatever a man sows that shall he also reap’ or to put it in modern day language ‘what goes around comes around’.

    Heather Stallard

  31. “I’m wondering where the student unions are on this one.” Well, perhaps you should look at the legal definition of “hate speech.” Here’s a hint: it has nothing to do with offending another party. Joshua Blakeney isn’t engaging in “hate speech,” he simply says Hitchens deserves cancer. Hitchens himself advocates genocide, so maybe the cancer is appropriate. Would you not hate rejoiced if you alive in 1939 and there was news Hitler has cancer? Do you not rejoice when you hear news of people labeled “militants” being murdered by your honorable Canadian troops or American allies? Now you wonder where the student unions, etc are; they are exercising their free speech. Blakeney’s simply rejoicing in Hitchen’s cancer; Coulter calls for mass murder. The two are incomparable. I know where McLeans and other conservative blogs, magazines, papers, etc are when it comes to Coulter. They support her “right to free speech” and to be in Canada exercising said right. However, those same sources did not defend Galloway’s rights to speak his mind in Canada when the Canadian government banned him from the country for political reasons. In fact, these same McLean’s blogs chastised those who defended Galloway’s right to speech.

  32. Hi again,

    I am wondering in what way Christopher Hithens advocates genocide? Is he not a human rights activist who hates hypocrisy as well as barbarism? Certainly he could not be compared with Adolph Hitler!

    Heather

  33. Well, if Hitchen’s views (of atheism) are correct, there is no objective right or wrong. Likewise, if his views are correct there is as much purpose in life as in death, or as little.

    So to simply mourn his impending death, or celebrate it, is merely an emotional reaction; and with no objective standards every reaction is equally valid.

    It is quite odd (and inconsistent with Hitchen’s own beliefs) to reject some reactions to his death as ‘objectionable’ and not others. It is arbitrary.

  34. “Well, if Hitchen’s views (of atheism) are correct, there is no objective right or wrong.”

    Actually no. Hitchens’ view is that there is an objective morality. It is just not religiously based morality. You are drawing your own conclusions from his atheism.

  35. Many here seem to be championing the intellectually homogenized nature of the Canadian academy. If you are right, wouldn’t you be pleased at the opportunity to prove it? and if you aren’t willing to subject your views to opposition, how can you hope to improve them, let alone validate them? From what I read here, a goodly portion of Canadian academics are content to mail it in, are in love with their own dogma, and have no use for the freedom of inquiry their “fascist-imperialistic constitutional democracies” provide them with. Some may be able to enjoy the democracy and freedoms we are so quick to take for granted, ( and, it seems, gleefully trample on the exercise of those rights, when they are enjoyed by someone who disagrees with them ) even in the knowledge that so many are deprived of the same. Umm, shucks, now I’ve lost track, who’s acting like a fascist again?