The Rhetorical Hitcheroo


At the risk of OD'ing on Christopher Hitchens deconstruction, I'd like to re-highlight one of the popinjay's most ridiculous and illustrative war-justifications from below:

The overthrow of Talibanism and Baathism, and the exposure of many highly suggestive links between the two elements of this Hitler-Stalin pact.

Wasn't the Hitler-Stalin pact, um, a pact—not some highly disputed set of "links"—and one that was signed publicly between two rampaging imperialist dictators in the midst of run-up to World War II? But to become upset by such analogical illiteralism misses the point of Hitchens' real ongoing rhetorical achievement, dubious though it is: More than any other person I'm aware of, he has made it safe for right-wingers to finally use the F-word just as often as the Left.

It used to be that Hitch deployed this Partisan Review-style vocabulary to convince his old Internationalist comrades that Yugoslavia was the next Spanish Civil War. But now it's just a violate-Godwin's-Law-for-free card, which a grateful pro-war nation has embraced, providing yet more evidence that there is no Lefty rhetorical trope the Right will despise enough to avoid co-opting completely.

Such deft rhetorical switchery and political shape-shifting leads to a lot of unintentional comedy, and here's my favorite: Hitchens' biggest new fans are especially fond of extrapolating from George Orwell's old saw about pacifism being "objectively pro-fascist," sometimes as headlines on links to Hitch's latest. But as Eric Blair's modern popularizer knows too well, Orwell—whose original essay, it should be mentioned, was referring to British pacifists during Hitler's bombing siege of London—repudiated his "objectively pro-fascist" line before the War was even over, in an essay about propaganda that's well worth your time.