Whitewashing Evil

The capacity of some people to look the other way in the face of evil is astounding.

Alex Massie passes along this quote from Simon Winchester’s column (£) in today’s (London) Times:

The State’s founder, Kim Il Sung, claimed that all he wanted for North Korea was to be socialist, and to be left alone. In that regard, the national philosophy of self-reliance known in North Korea as “Juche” is little different from India’s Gandhian version known as “swadeshi”. Just let us get on with it, they said, and without interference, please.

India’s attempt to go it alone failed. So, it seems, has Burma’s. Perhaps inevitably, North Korea’s attempt appears to be tottering. But seeing how South Korea has turned out — its Koreanness utterly submerged in neon, hip-hop and every imaginable American influence, a romantic can allow himself a small measure of melancholy: North Korea, for all its faults, is undeniably still Korea, a place uniquely representative of an ancient and rather remarkable Asian culture. And that, in a world otherwise rendered so bland, is perhaps no bad thing.

The “faults” of North Korea, of course, include being the most totalitarian state on the planet, if not in all of human history. A state where those who are not part of the party and military apparatus are mere cogs in a machine. Where each home has a loudspeaker that broadcasts propaganda into the home every morning and and every night. Where people starving to death is considered a cost of doing business by the Korean Workers Party. Leaving aside the notion that Winchester’s claim that there is something more authentically Korean about a slave state ruled by a family of megalomaniacs than the prosperous, relatively free society to its south is simply false, the authors willingness to white wash totalitarianism ranks him right up there with the apologists for Hitler, Stalin, and Mao that populated the world in the 20th Century. It reminds one of Walter Duranty, the Pulitzer Prize winner New York Times reporter who reported as fact the propaganda Moscow was spreading about the Ukrainians dying as a result of Stalin’s forced farm collectivization program. It’s wrong, it’s disgusting, and it quite honestly reveals a man whose sense of morality is so perversely warped that one wonders why The Times even gives him columns space.

Massie comments:

Newspapers, of course, are free to publish whatever they like but one does wonder if anyone at the Times paused to think, “Hang on, we don’t have to publish a piece that doesn’t just defend the Kims from their detractors but actually makes some kind of fucking “case” for them.”

Plucky little North Korea going it all on her lonesome? Please. Get a grip.

Indeed.

I’m willing to bet that Winchester has never been to North Korea, because if he had, he would have seen what Christopher Hitchens did:

North Korea is a famine state. In the fields, you can see people picking up loose grains of rice and kernels of corn, gleaning every scrap. They look pinched and exhausted. In the few, dingy restaurants in the city, and even in the few modern hotels, you can read the Pyongyang Times through the soup, or the tea, or the coffee. Morsels of inexplicable fat or gristle are served as “duck.” One evening I gave in and tried a bowl of dog stew, which at least tasted hearty and spicy—they wouldn’t tell me the breed—but then found my appetite crucially diminished by the realization that I hadn’t seen a domestic animal, not even the merest cat, in the whole time I was there. (In a Pyongyang restaurant, don’t ever ask for a doggie bag.) Nobody knows how many North Koreans have died or are dying in the famine—some estimates by foreign-aid groups run as high as three million in the period from 1995 to 1998 alone—but the rotund, jowly face of Kim Il Sung still beams down contentedly from every wall, and the 58-year-old son looks as chubby as ever, even as his slenderized subjects are mustered to applaud him. Kim Jong Il, incidentally, has been made head of the party and of the army, but the office of the presidency is still “eternally” held by his adored and departed dad, who died on July 8, 1994, at 82. (The Kim is dead. Long live the Kim.) This makes North Korea the only state in the world with a dead president. What would be the right term for this? A necrocracy? A thanatocracy? A mortocracy? A mausolocracy? Anyway, grimly appropriate for a morbid system so many of whose children have died with grass in their mouths.

(…)

Sooner or later, all talk among foreigners in Pyongyang turns to one imponderable subject. Do the locals really believe what they are told, and do they truly revere Fat Man and Little Boy? I have been a visiting writer in several authoritarian and totalitarian states, and usually the question answers itself. Someone in a café makes an offhand remark. A piece of ironic graffiti is scrawled in the men’s room. Some group at the university issues some improvised leaflet. The glacier begins to melt; a joke makes the rounds and the apparently immovable regime suddenly looks vulnerable and absurd. But it’s almost impossible to convey the extent to which North Korea just isn’t like that. South Koreans who met with long-lost family members after the June rapprochement were thunderstruck at the way their shabby and thin northern relatives extolled Fat Man and Little Boy. Of course, they had been handpicked, but they stuck to their line.

There’s a possible reason for the existence of this level of denial, which is backed up by an indescribable degree of surveillance and indoctrination. A North Korean citizen who decided that it was all a lie and a waste would have to face the fact that his life had been a lie and a waste also. The scenes of hysterical grief when Fat Man died were not all feigned; there might be a collective nervous breakdown if it was suddenly announced that the Great Leader had been a verbose and arrogant fraud. Picture, if you will, the abrupt deprogramming of more than 20 million Moonies or Jonestowners, who are suddenly informed that it was all a cruel joke and there’s no longer anybody to tell them what to do. There wouldn’t be enough Kool-Aid to go round. I often wondered how my guides kept straight faces. The streetlights are turned out all over Pyongyang—which is the most favored city in the country—every night. And the most prominent building on the skyline, in a town committed to hysterical architectural excess, is the Ryugyong Hotel. It’s 105 floors high, and from a distance looks like a grotesquely enlarged version of the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco (or like a vast and cumbersome missile on a launchpad). The crane at its summit hasn’t moved in years; it’s a grandiose and incomplete ruin in the making. “Under construction,” say the guides without a trace of irony. I suppose they just keep two sets of mental books and live with the contradiction for now.

Hitchens, of course, was a man who never avoided an opportunity to speak truth to power, often bluntly so. One wonders how he was able to restrain himself during his visit to Pyongyang all those years ago, as am matter of fact. Winchester, on the other hand, appears to be either an idiot or a man so filled with moral cowardice that even from the comfort of wherever it happens to be that the writes his column he does not dare speak to the truth. Hopefully, the world has more Hitchens’ than it does Winchester’s.

FILED UNDER: Asia, World Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Rob in CT says:

    Yeah, this one’s been making the rounds. It’s really stunningly bad. If somebody posted it on a blog I’d assume it was a blatant attempt at trolling. Ugh.

    There’s an odd sort of nostalgiac cultural conservatism embedded in that quote, which leads its author to defend the worst excesses of the Left (NK has to rank up there with the worst of the worst, with Stalin and Pol Pot, don’t you think?), or perhaps it’s the other way ’round, I’m not sure.

  2. James says:

    Bam!

  3. Rob in CT says:

    As for Hitchen, remember he ended up all rah-rah for Iraq and the WoT. Truth to power? Not really.

    Hitchens fancied himself as someone who took on bullies, and of course Saddam was a bully, as are the rulers of NK, as are many rulers. But this leads to things like… well, the Iraq war. Hitch may have thought he was taking on a bully (taking on rhetorically – it’s not as if Hitchens was going to don a uniform and fight, even if his liver could have passed the physical), but ended up doing some bullying himself as a useful fool of the Neocons.

    He wasn’t wrong about tyranny, and he could turn a phrase (especially when he was rhetorically knifing someone). But he was also sloppy at times (drunk, probably), and really he doesn’t deserve the “he spoke truth to power!” thing.

    I mean, he started off as a Trotskyite, didn’t he?

  4. I’m reminded of the people who demand that various indigenous tribes in Africa or South America be forcibly isolated from all the advances of broader society for similar purposes of authenticity. The idea of forcing someone to live what amounts to a neolithic existence so that Western yuppies may admire them like exhibits in some living museum is horrifying to me. I really can’t comprehend the mentality that reduces other human beings solely to tools to that extent.

  5. Liberty60 says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    Why is it that when other people adopt Western culture it is degradation, but when we drive Hondas, listen to Ethiopian folk music and eat empanadas we are just being “cosmopolitan”?

    Yep, South Koreans like them some hip hop music, and they dig German architects, and wear French fashions. Sorry if they aren’t being exotic enough for some people’s taste.

  6. WR says:

    Doug says: “Hitchens, of course, was a man who never avoided an opportunity to speak truth to power, often bluntly so. ”

    Except, of course, when that power was that of the US invading countries for no reason and slaughtering tens of thousands of civillians. Then Hitchens never avoided an opportunity to repeat the administration’s lies, often bluntly so.

  7. I disagreed with Hitchens on Iraq, but he considered it a continuation of his stand against Islamism that started when he was one of the few prominent writers to speak out against the fatwa against Salman Rushdie.

    Like all men, he wasn’t perfect, but I still enjoyed his writing and his intellect.

  8. @Stormy Dragon:

    What makes you think that the South Koreans or the Japanese or, to be honest, the Chinese are being “forced” to adopt Western cultural ways? Maybe they like them.

    Also I would submit that the entire idea that North Korea is “more Korean” than South Korea is about the most idiotic thing a human being can say.

  9. @Doug Mataconis:

    I don’t. I was complaining about people who do.

  10. Tano says:

    @Rob in CT:

    . If somebody posted it on a blog I’d assume it was a blatant attempt at trolling

    Oh, you mean the Murdoch press wouldn’t engage in trolling???

  11. ponce says:

    *Yawn*

    Another straw man slain by hypersensitive wingnuts.

    The right wing blogospere is going under because of pointless posts like this one.

  12. Ponce,

    I’m sure you also have no problem with the United Nations having an moment of silence for the Young Butcher Of Pyongyang?

    These people would’ve sent flowers to Hitler’s funeral had he survived.

  13. ponce says:

    Doug,

    Ten million children die every year from easily preventable causes.

    All of us in the “first” world have blood on our hands.

    But in this case, you and your fringe right pals have simply twisted what Winchester said to get your whine of the day fix.

  14. Tano says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Since when would you be upset by the United Nations remaining silent, even if just for a moment?

  15. Rob in CT says:

    Ponce – are you actually defending what Winchester said?

  16. Tano,

    Marking respect for a dictator should offend any human being.

  17. Tano says:

    Well Doug, I meant it as a joke.

    But lets be honest here. Making gestures of respect to horrible tyrants is a necessary, everyday occurrence in the world of diplomacy. Otherwise you either go to war (real or metaphorical) with them, or ignore them, neither of which is usually the best path to pursuing ones own interests, nor improving the lot of their victims.

  18. ponce says:

    Ponce – are you actually defending what Winchester said?

    Rob,

    I don’t see anything to defend.

    Winchester, who is an expert in Korean culture, says it is better preserved in the north than the south.

    An unremarkable observation.

    If it weren’t for bad faith interpretations of what others write, D-list fringe right bloggers would have very little to post about.

  19. G.A.Phillips says:

    Ten million children die every year from easily preventable causes.

    And then some, Amen brother…..

  20. Ben Wolf says:

    There’s also Hitchen’s condescending writing toward women and his hateful rants toward muslims to consider, but his ten year effort to enable the powerful to wage unlimited global war is what made the man a sycophant and an all-around prick. He was a servant of the powerful, not a critic.

  21. G.A.Phillips says:

    I guess I have to break another pledge and do some down voting, this has gone ridiculous…

  22. Ben Wolf says:

    But for the public at large, at least those who knew of him, Hitchens was an extremely controversial, polarizing figure. And particularly over the last decade, he expressed views — not ancillary to his writings but central to them — that were nothing short of repellent.

    Corey Robin wrote that “on the announcement of his death, I think it’s fair to allow Christopher Hitchens to do the things he loved to do most: speak for himself,” and then assembled two representative passages from Hitchens’ post-9/11 writings. In the first, Hitchens celebrated the ability of cluster bombs to penetrate through a Koran that a Muslim may be carrying in his coat pocket  (“those steel pellets will go straight through somebody and out the other side and through somebody else. So they won’t be able to say, ‘Ah, I was bearing a Koran over my heart and guess what, the missile stopped halfway through.’ No way, ’cause it’ll go straight through that as well. They’ll be dead, in other words”), and in the second, Hitchens explained that his reaction to the 9/11 attack was “exhilaration” because it would unleash an exciting, sustained war against what he came addictively to call “Islamofascism”: “I realized that if the battle went on until the last day of my life, I would never get bored in prosecuting it to the utmost.”

    Hitchens, of course, never “prosecuted” the “exhilarating” war by actually fighting in it, but confined his “prosecution” to cheering for it and persuading others to support it. As one of Hitchens’ heroes, George Orwell, put it perfectly in Homage to Catalonia about the anti-fascist, tough-guy war writers of his time:

    “As late as October 1937 the New Statesman was treating us to tales of Fascist barricades made of the bodies of living children (a most unhandy thing to make barricades with), and Mr Arthur Bryant was declaring that ‘the sawing-off of a Conservative tradesman’s legs’ was ‘a commonplace’ in Loyalist Spain.

    The people who write that kind of stuff never fight; possibly they believe that to write it is a substitute for fighting. It is the same in all wars; the soldiers do the fighting, the journalists do the shouting, and no true patriot ever gets near a front-line trench, except on the briefest of propaganda-tours. Sometimes it is a comfort to me to think that the aeroplane is altering the conditions of war. Perhaps when the next great war comes we may see that sight unprecedented in all history, a jingo with a bullet-hole in him.”

    I rarely wrote about Hitchens because, at least for the time that I’ve been writing about politics (since late 2005), there was nothing particularly notable about him. When it came to the defining issues of the post-9/11 era, he was largely indistinguishable from the small army of neoconservative fanatics eager to unleash ever-greater violence against Muslims: driven by a toxic mix of barbarism, self-loving provincialism, a sense of personal inadequacy, and, most of all, a pity-inducing need to find glory and purpose in cheering on military adventures and vanquishing some foe of historically unprecedented evil even if it meant manufacturing them.

    http://www.salon.com/2011/12/17/christohper_hitchens_and_the_protocol_for_public_figure_deaths/singleton/

  23. Eric Florack says:

    The nightmare that is North Korea is the logical and inevitable result of socialism regaqrdless of the cultural prism it is applied through… whereas what is so glibly called western culture is the logical and inevitable result of the kind of freedom that free market capitalism brings. Granted that Korea provides a stark contrast, but it is not unique.

    East and west Germany leap to mind. N and S Vietnam. Cuba and iits neighbors. Venzuala and so on as well.

    it amazes me that anyone can look on these and still even consider tsuggesting centralized government as a solution…. much less someone supposedly the smartest in the room

  24. Ben says:

    @ponce:

    I don’t see anything to defend.

    Winchester, who is an expert in Korean culture, says it is better preserved in the north than the south.

    An unremarkable observation.

    Except that he’s completely wrong. The totalitarian regime in NK did everything they could to DESTROY the native Korean culture and replace it with mindless worship of state and dictator. The only way in which the North is closer to the classic Korean culture than the South is that they’re poor and starving. As said in the comments in one of the other sites discussing this article:

    And it’s not even remotely true on its own terms. The architecture of Pyongyang is Moscow 1952. The mass displays are China 1964. Painting is Soviet Academy 1936. Music is Gang of Four Operas 1974. Dress is Bucharest 1988

  25. A voice from another precinct says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I think you need to re-read his post. You seem to have gotten it 180 degrees out of sync. Personally, I’m not surprised, but I want to give you the chance to retract your stupidity.

  26. michael reynolds says:

    I’m a little shocked at the criticism of Doug on this post.

    The North Korean regime is evil. If you can’t call these assholes evil you can’t call anyone evil.

    And trashing Hitchens solely because you disagree with one of his stands is narrow-minded and ignorant.

    That said, Eric: you’re still an idiot. If North Korea is the inevitable result of socialism then Sweden is starving.

  27. Ben Wolf says:

    @michael reynolds: I disagree with Hitchen’s warmongering, his racism and his misogynistic attitude toward women. If those aren’t reason enough to trash him, what is?

  28. ponce says:

    Except that he’s completely wrong.

    Ben,

    Simon Winchester crossed Korea by foot and wrote a well-received book about the experience:

    http://www.amazon.com/Korea-Walk-Through-Land-Miracles/dp/0060750448

    Forgive me if I trust his opinion more than the opinions of a bunch of poorly educated wingnuts with anger management issues.

  29. michael reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    I don’t think he’s a war-monger or a racist or a misogynist. I at least understand the genesis of the war-monger charge, so let me address that.

    Saddam Hussein was a monster. His two sons were monsters. They had started two wars — Iran and Kuwait. They systematically engaged in wide-spread torture of the most grotesque sort. He attempted to build a nuclear weapon — an attempt stopped apparently by the Israeli raid. He not only stockpiled but used chemical weapons. He massacred domestic populations that opposed him.

    So let’s have a little context. We did not invade Sweden. It wasn’t the Garden of Eden prior to our arrival. It was a desperate shith0le where hundreds of thousands of innocent people had been slaughtered. Ask the marsh Arabs or the Kurds whether they’re sorry we took Saddam down.

    Hitchens’ goal — a goal I shared — was that we might, by overthrowing a murderous tyrant, create a democratic state and liberate his people. There is historical precedent: Germany, Japan, Austria and Italy.

    That the effort was stunningly mishandled is not seriously in dispute. That it failed for the most part is not seriously in dispute. That it ended up starting what amounted to a sort of low-level civil war is likewise not in dispute. Was it an epic f–k up? Yes, it sure was.

    But to move from that to attacking the motives of everyone who supported that war as a “war monger” is simplistic and unfair. Neither Hitchens (nor I) stood to profit. The idea was to free an enslaved people.

    The motive in Iraq was essentially identical to the motive in Libya, in Somalia, in Bosnia/Kosovo: to bring down a tyranny and hopefully to set an example. It seems to have failed in Iraq. It failed in Somalia. It has partly at least succeeded in the former Yugoslavia. The jury is still out on Libya.

    But to denounce anyone who wants to use force to bring down a tyrant as a war-monger is to argue that we were right to sit on the sidelines — as we did — of World War 2 while the Germans and the Japanese murdered tens of millions. And it argues that in the future we must always stand by with our hands in our pockets while future genocides or atrocities occur.

    Consider the possibility that in the case of Iraq there was a broad range of supporters with varying motives. Consider as well the fact that outcome does not retroactively determine motive.

    I dislike ideological re-writes of history whether it’s a right-winger rationalizing the Confederacy or a left-winger engaging in an over-simplification of Vietnam or Iraq. Motives are always plural, and reducing complexity to over-simplification for the purpose of promoting an ideology is harmful to understanding.

  30. Davebo says:

    Consider the possibility that in the case of Iraq there was a broad range of supporters with varying motives.

    I think the fact that so many of those supporters (like Doug) have since been frantically crab walking back from their support says it all.

    Motives are always plural, and reducing complexity to over-simplification for the purpose of promoting an ideology is harmful to understanding.

    That’s the most BS line I’ve ever read in an attempt to excuse a prior mistake. It’s almost like… well, never mind.

  31. Davebo says:

    Doug,Eugene Volokh and Randy Barnett.

    Working hard to ensure Libertarians (folks too ashamed to call themselves Republicans) will never get more than one percent of the popular vote.

    Ya gotta love America right? Don’t get me wrong, The above are not ignorant. In fact all three are extremely bright.

    Just incredibly dishonest.

  32. G.A.Phillips says:

    Winchester, who is an expert in Korean culture, says it is better preserved in the north than the south.

    So he is an expert on forced atheist socialism/communism with a little god named KIm and grass soup?I never new Korea was always a thought controlled military police state run by a half A$$ Bond villain..

    Forgive me if I trust his opinion more than the opinions of a bunch of poorly educated wingnuts with anger management issues.

    Of course, I would go with the stunted little Koren supremacist advocate every time over peeved non historical fact indoctrinated sudo wingnuts who write on pure misunderstood emotion rationals and knee jerk responses to a faulty perception of tyrannical evilness…

  33. Eric Florack says:

    @michael reynolds: the fact of the matter is wherever socialism is applied, economic progress disappears. perhaps you haven’t heard the whole of europe the sinking, switzerland with it.

    and then there is the catastrophe that is Obama and his foray into socialism.

    and michael the only difference between them is a matter of degree.

  34. DRS says:

    We entered WWII because Japan attacked us at Pearl Harbor and Germany followed up a day or so later with a declaration of war on the US, in support of their Japanese ally. Not one of Hitler’s brightest strategic decisions but what the hey – once he did it, we were in.

    Great Britian and her imperial possessions/future Commonwealth allies (take your pick) had been fighting for almost two years on their own without American involvement but with as much support as Roosevelt could swing despite disapproval of getting involved with war “over there”.

    The idea that we ripped off our shirts to reveal our Superman logo and sprang into action to repel evil is a post-victory construct.

    Otherwise I agree that Winchester’s comments were awful, although I reject claims that he’s some kind of totalitarian sympathizer.

  35. DRS says:

    Obama is not a socialist. Not too many years ago he would have been seen as a right-leaning centrist and in most other countries he still would. People shouldn’t use words they don’t understand.

  36. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Except that Sweden is not socialism as defined by the newest meaning but is social defined by the older definition.

    Sweden has private corporations and private ownership of property. Sweden also has the rule of law. When the government owns most things and there are no private corporations there is usually no rule of law.

  37. superdestroyer says:

    @DRS:

    There is nothing center-right about believing that the government should decide what medical procedures are performed and which are not. There is nothing center-right about believing that industrial companies should have to be approved by the government in order to exist. There is nothing center-right about believing that lawyers should be the order givers and the rest of us shoud be order takers.

  38. DRS says:

    You are completely wrong about those assertions, SD. Save me time here: are you a liar or a fool?

  39. Barb Hartwell says:

    I don`t know what causes this snow ball of evil, but I believe it can happen anywhere and I don`t think it takes to long to escalate into a society such as the N. Koreans have. Fear and isolation are mighty powerful things against humanity and we end up following like sheep until we are rescued or someone strong stands up to turn things around again.

  40. ponce says:

    It’s funny watching the wingnuts who frequently celebrate(and pine for) the Confederacy and all the evil it stood for get their panties in a bunch over some imaginary insufficient booing of North Korea.

  41. michael reynolds says:

    @Eric Florack:
    No, it’s not a fact, in fact it’s the opposite of a fact: it’s utter nonsense.

    Do you know what percentage of successful, wealthy, high-quality-of-life nations are socialist to a significant degree? 100%

  42. michael reynolds says:

    @superdestroyer:
    Here’sa thought: learn what the word “socialism” means before you start talking about it.

  43. michael reynolds says:

    @Davebo:
    The “most b.s. line ever” and yet you can’t explain why. Despite it being “the most.”

  44. Ben Wolf says:

    @Eric Florack: We’ve been over this before. 100% of wealthy nations have strong activist governments, a social safety net and economic regulation.

  45. Ben Wolf says:

    @michael reynolds: Well, there’s Hitchen’s assertion women are genetically programmed to be dumb, gullible and humorless:

    Humor, if we are to be serious about it, arises from the ineluctable fact that we are all born into a losing struggle. Those who risk agony and death to bring children into this fiasco simply can’t afford to be too frivolous. (And there just aren’t that many episiotomy jokes, even in the male repertoire.) I am certain that this is also partly why, in all cultures, it is females who are the rank-and-file mainstay of religion, which in turn is the official enemy of all humor…. And because fear is the mother of superstition, and because they are partly ruled in any case by the moon and the tides, women also fall more heavily for dreams, for supposedly significant dates like birthdays and anniversaries, for romantic love, crystals and stones, lockets and relics, and other things that men know are fit mainly for mockery and limericks. Good grief! Is there anything less funny than hearing a woman relate a dream she’s just had?

    Then there’s his reference to Wanda Sykes as a “black dyke”.

    One could also dredge up his repeated statements to the effect that the Irish are an inferior and stupid people, or that we should have killed a lot more civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  46. docweasel says:

    @Rob in CT: Only if you are, like WInchester, a complete apologist for Saddam. The Iraq war was an absolute good- necessary, humanitarian, and the impetus for the “Arab Spring” we’re seeing now. You quack about how bad Kim is while you are implicitly saying Saddam was fine and the Iraqi people deserved to endure their misery, that the West should have put up with Saddam’s belligerence and war-mongering, terrorist coddling and murder of his own people. The UN backed Bush, Clinton agreed with Bush, dozens of allies backed the US, etc. Yes, the US should have taken out Syria and Iran at the same time, and gotten it all out of the way. After the fact whinging by people like you not-withstanding, the world is better off today thanks to GWBush’s courage. Now we need someone with the courage to take on Iran and free Syria. I’d bet you’re fine with Obama interfering in Egypt and Libya, btw. You just hate George W. Bush, and that informs all your opinions on world events.

  47. michael reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    I’m pretty sure Hitchens was being humorously provocative in the humor piece. The “black dyke” remark is a report of a single remark made at a party by a presumably drunk Hitchens and reported by New York Magazine gossip and society writers.

    • By the end of the night, Christopher Hitchens was of course the last man (barely) standing, and he had some choice words for the evening’s headlining comedian, Wanda Sykes. “The president should be squirming in his seat. Not smiling,” he said. “The black dyke got it wrong. No one told her the rules.”

    I think if there were a case to be made that Hitchens was some sort of serious misogynist that his voluminous writings would yield more evidence.

    The Irish are not a race, they are a nationality, so on merely technical grounds the racism accusation fails. Again, I’d want to see the context on that. I would want to see whether tongue was in cheek.

    The Irish Times obituary made no mention of anti-Irish feeling, and the smaller obit at the Irish Voice website led with this:

    The late Christopher Hitchens who died yesterday was an avid supporter of a United Ireland.

    Rare for British writers, Hitchens was a committed Republican, in favor of ending the monarchy in Britain.

    He became embroiled in many arguments on Northern Ireland which he often compared to Cyprus, and stated that partition in both cases was the root of all the problems that the country experienced.

    Read more: http://www.irishcentral.com/story/news/people_and_politics/christopher-hitchens-was-a-committed-supporter-of-a-united-ireland-135719653.html#ixzz1hOQoVpCt

    Because my wife is as WASPy as one can be, and because I’m an ethnic Jew, and because the style in our home is edgy, provocative humor, we have running jokes about her presumed Nazi forbears and about my Jewish money-grubbing. Neither of us is a racist or even cares about our ethnic roots in the slightest. People who play with words don’t always play nice. There’s a difference between that and actual racism or homophobia or sexism.

  48. mannning says:

    @michael reynolds:

    People who play with words don’t always play nice.

    AMEN! A line to be remembered and fed back appropriately!

  49. Eric Florack says:

    Obama is not a socialist.

    He is without question.socialist

    What he describes in that clip is socialism, pure and simple.

  50. Eric Florack says:

    We’ve been over this before.

    Yes, we have. And you were wrong then as wel.
    as for your bandwagon argument, I find it laughable.
    What you’re suggesting here, is akin to just because all your friends have their rocks cut off and their hair cut off as well so they can go on the comet you think everybody needs to.
    l.

  51. Eric Florack says:

    Do you know what percentage of successful, wealthy, high-quality-of-life nations are socialist to a significant degree? 100%

    Except ours, until recently, of course.
    See my previous comment for the rest.

  52. G.A.Phillips says:
  53. Eric Florack says:

    @superdestroyer: Quite so.