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Dec 16 2011

The dark side of Hitchens

It’s only fair to balance the light — Hitchens was a glorious writer and rhetorician, an advocate for atheism, and a brave human being — with the dark, and point out that there were subjects on which he was infuriating.

Alex Pareene brings up his peculiar misogyny and his support for war.

And so we had the world’s self-appointed supreme defender of Orwell’s legacy happily joining an extended misinformation campaign designed to sell an incompetent right-wing government’s war of choice. The man who carefully laid out the case for arresting Henry Kissinger for war crimes was now palling around with Paul fucking Wolfowitz.

I remember his talk at a FFRF meeting that dismayed the audience. He promoted jingoistic violence as the solution to everything in the Middle East.

Then it was Hitchens at his most bellicose. He told us what the most serious threat to the West was (and you know this line already): it was Islam. Then he accused the audience of being soft on Islam, of being the kind of vague atheists who refuse to see the threat for what it was, a clash of civilizations, and of being too weak to do what was necessary, which was to spill blood to defeat the enemy. Along the way he told us who his choice for president was right now — Rudy Giuliani — and that Obama was a fool, Clinton was a pandering closet fundamentalist, and that he was less than thrilled about all the support among the FFRF for the Democratic party. We cannot afford to allow the Iranian theocracy to arm itself with nuclear weapons (something I entirely sympathize with), and that the only solution is to go in there with bombs and marines and blow it all up. The way to win the war is to kill so many Moslems that they begin to question whether they can bear the mounting casualties.

Slaughtering civilians does not seem to be a solution that ever brings peace…unless it’s carried to the degree that an entire people is exterminated, and then the only peace is the peace of the grave.

Hitchens was a complicated fellow: talented and intelligent, and on some subjects he was warm and humane and a true child of the Enlightenment. And on others, a bloodthirsty barbarian and a club-carrying primitive. At least in his final months it was the civilized and thoughtful humanist who emerged most.

506 comments

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  1. 501
    Kagehi

    Depends on what kind of “worth” you mean. If it’s “worth in comparison to the appendix”… the BRAIN. QED.
    If it’s “higher worth than the mother’s well-being”, then, um, nah, obviously I don’t know of any such argument, because, you know, if I knew, chance are I’d actually believe that °_°

    Problem, as I see it, is those against the practice often suffer from magic bean syndrome. They don’t know if the mother “is” more valuable or not, but they are willing to bet on the baby being more valuable. It worked out for Jack. It might work out, if talking money, if you spent you last 5 dollars on a winning ticket. The problem is, you are dealing with a **known** value, and projecting a possible value that might be lost, if you risked the known one. This is fine for a bet, its a much more murky situation when dealing with human life, and outright irresponsible, if there is *any* odds that you will lose the life that is already there, or both, and gain nothing in the process. The law shouldn’t be “betting” on positive outcomes, or demanding that other people play the roulette wheel, just because someone finds the whole idea that it is sometimes a game of roulette “inconvenient to their moral sense”. Its one thing if I bet, and lose, its another thing if someone else *forces* me to make such a bet, and I lose. And that is true, to an extent, even if the “loss” is the time, effort, and expense of raising a kid, where adoption may not be an option, or the price paid, to everyone involved, including the child, is otherwise unacceptably high.

    Why, if the odds are known to be bad, or entirely unknown, does someone else get to decide for some women whether or not to take the resulting bet? And, if her own life is on the line, then why is it even under discussion, instead of being an act of sick depravity to force her to risk it?

    Yeah, I am sure some won’t like the analogy made here, but some times you need to look at things from a different angle, to understand just how bloody useless the arguments are, when only addressing the “humaness” of the fetus being discussed, while glossing over other concerns, because they are all, somehow, secondary to that question. Its not my, nor should it be some other person’s, right to tell a pregnant woman that, regardless of circumstances, she needs to bet her costs, future, or even life, on “unknown” odds, for equally unknown “potential”.

  2. 502
    twooffour

    I agree with everything you’ve said, except this:

    “And that is true, to an extent, even if the “loss” is the time, effort, and expense of raising a kid, where adoption may not be an option, or the price paid, to everyone involved, including the child, is otherwise unacceptably high.”

    Sorry, no. These things all apply AFTER the baby is born. Yes, the opportunity to give a baby off to abortion is a MUST, and the lack of it can be a cause for hard decisions.
    But that’s a seperate topic.

    Once the baby is born, he’s a HUMAN BEING, no discussions. Preserving his life has nothing to do with putting the mother’s health on the line, like it happens during pregnancy.

    The main argument against abortion is that as long as the fetus is attached to the mother’s body, she has the autonomy over her body.
    No, it’s not “just her body” as some idiots say (and idiots on the other side try to strawman pro-choicers), but her body is on the line, subjected to risk and overall difficulties.

    Because, how are you gonna apply this sentence?

    “regardless of circumstances, she needs to bet her costs, future, or even life, on “unknown” odds, for equally unknown “potential”.”
    Let’s see the baby is born, and you say “it’s absolutely wrong to tell her she can’t just abandon it on the street; it’s her costs and her future, what right do you have?”

    See why this line of arguing doesn’t work?

    “when only addressing the “humaness” of the fetus being discussed”
    I didn’t “only” discuss it (although it may be discussed as a separate topic in general), I just brought it up because some morons on here dismiss this “humaness”, or the question about it, out of hand.

    It doesn’t exist for them. The fetus is “a thing” that you can “take out like a polyp”.
    Sorry, I object to stupid dihonest nonsense like that.

  3. 503
    Kagehi

    Let’s see the baby is born, and you say “it’s absolutely wrong to tell her she can’t just abandon it on the street; it’s her costs and her future, what right do you have?”

    See why this line of arguing doesn’t work?

    You mean, aside from the fact that a) you can predict most of the problems, before its born, and b) you are describing the equivalent of someone trying to grab the chips from the table, after the ball has already landed on the wrong color?

    And, no, I am not saying you only talked about the “humaness” of it. The point is that that is not a relevant issue, since its one of those “potential” things, which are not absolutely known, until birth, and many things can go wrong, right up to that point. That you feel this shouldn’t be the case is your prerogative, but it doesn’t change the reality that you are talking about an unknown, with unknown consequences, unknown potentials, and an unknown future. Though, as I said, the later *can be* predicted to some extent, and bad predictions “might be” a valid concern.

  4. 504
    twooffour

    you are describing the equivalent of someone trying to grab the chips from the table, after the ball has already landed on the wrong color?

    I don’t fucking get this analogy. What “ball color”?

    The point is that that is not a relevant issue, since its one of those “potential” things, which are not absolutely known

    Let’s see just how unknown:

    with unknown consequences, unknown potentials, and an unknown future

    Ok, what is it about “it’s going to become a human” that’s so damn woolly and unpredictable?

    Like, what, unexpected genetic disorders? Whether he’s going to grow into a psychopath? IRRELEVANT.

    Sorry, the “unknown” thing is how much of a human the fetus (at a given development stage) IS at that right moment.

    Now, you’re talking about “the unknown”… well, isn’t this “unknown” worth of being… known?
    Let’s imagine a thought experiment, the fetus’ (at some later stage) brain is working, it wakes up sometimes, already experiences dreams and emotions to an extent… and bam, it’s killed.
    Now, abortion would still be “justified” to be allowed, in light of the “violinist experiment” – an already fully formed human being puts their own body on line to support that other one, can you FORCE them to? No.
    But you can’t argue that such a knowledge wouldn’t play any role at all in the individual decision. Just like with the violinist, ultimately if you stop supporting him/her, they’ll die, and that ain’t good.

    Again, you’re missing the point here – some morons trivialize the issue, they crap on the whole “unknown mystery” thing, they just say “it’s some polyp, what’s the discussion about anyway?!”
    All I’m doing is arguing against this stupidity. I’m NOT saying anything about how anyone should force others to make sacrifices “for the unknown”, all the “things that might go wrong” be damned. I’m just saying they’re being stupid.

    That you feel this shouldn’t be the case is your prerogative

    What shouldn’t be the case? The nature of the fetus shouldn’t be thrown out of the general discussion, no.
    That has nothing to do with how much of a role that ultimately plays as “the unknown” factor when it comes to the actual decision whether to legalize abortion, the answer to which is positive in either case.

    “a) you can predict most of the problems, before its born”
    So what? What role does that play? There’s a difference between arguing for bodily autonomy, and arguing for convenience – the mum would rather study, and that baby’s taking away the time.

    That’s NOT a way to rationalize life termination, especially if it should come out that the fetus is more of a human than assumed.
    If birth were absolutely painless and risk free, one could just say “okay, just carry it out, and then we’ll take it to adoption or whatever” – or maybe not, but that’s still what, in the ideal case, can be done after birth.

    The bodily autonomy is already sufficient, how about just sticking to that?
    But whatever – I honestly can’t put my finger on what point you’re trying to make here.

  5. 505
    Kagehi

    I don’t fucking get this analogy. What “ball color”?

    I know its hard, but do try to keep up.

    “Roulette is a casino game named after a French diminutive for little wheel. In the game, players may choose to place bets on either a single number or a range of numbers, the colors red or black, or whether the number is odd or even.”

    Ok, what is it about “it’s going to become a human” that’s so damn woolly and unpredictable?

    Uh.. How about the bloody fact, which you keep persistently ignoring, that its not an absolute certainty that it will be born, instead of stillborn.

    And, that is without even bothering to mention the bloody shitty idea that we should be proud of the fact that the vastly largest number of children born in the world, are born in poverty, disease filled places, or other conditions, which can end up having their “effective” life span end up being anything from less than a year, to, if they are fairly lucky, and get born in a “first world” slum, maybe their 20s. Because, you know, that sort of “consequence” isn’t at all relevant.

    I am done discussing the matter. You think there is a moral imperative to save every life, even if, as is usually the case, you flat out cannot see how often the result isn’t “life” so much as merely survival, and daily hell, for some of those precious children (and no, adoptions, and all the other stuff won’t change that. The people that claim to care either don’t, and won’t, or when they do, have about as much impact as people adopting 3 dogs from a pound, on the same day that 14 of them are brought in from a puppy farm. Until and unless you can somehow make the adoptions equal to the births, and/or stop all abuses, and/or eliminate all poverty, crime and political bullshit, and/or fix all the problems of foster homes, you are not doing the majority of the children than you care so much about, a damn bit of good by demanding we save all of them to live that way.) All of these things **must** be considered by someone when deciding if they even can have the child, never mind who, if anyone, will take care of them, if they can’t. Being in the “first world”, increases the options, lessens some dangers, but includes a whole mess of things that are **still** huge problems, for which even more such children will make worse, not better. In the third world, they are lucky to even have the option you want to deny, never mind any of the others.

    You are not worth continuing to argue with.

  6. 506
    twooffour

    Uh.. How about the bloody fact, which you keep persistently ignoring, that its not an absolute certainty that it will be born, instead of stillborn.

    So what’s more important, knowing how roulette works, or actually reading the post you’re replying to?
    Like, what, unexpected genetic disorders? Whether he’s going to grow into a psychopath? IRRELEVANT.

    Yea, a lot of things can happen. The baby can just suddenly die AFTER birth, so that does that make it okay to kill it then? The “unknown” factor is HOW HUMAN THE FETUS IS AT A GIVEN STAGE BEFORE BIRTH.
    Not what bad things could potentially happen. Once it’s born, this “unknown” factor is solved – the risk remains until death. It’s irrelevant.

    And, that is without even bothering to mention the bloody shitty idea that we should be proud of the fact that the vastly largest number of children born in the world, are born in poverty, disease filled places, or other conditions, which can end up having their “effective” life span end up being anything from less than a year, to, if they are fairly lucky, and get born in a “first world” slum, maybe their 20s. Because, you know, that sort of “consequence” isn’t at all relevant.

    No, it’s not, because the same rationale could be given for killing a child in its sleep – “it’s a 3rd world country, we’re fucked – so it’s better for him”.

    As I said, this argument isn’t NEEDED to legalize abortion. Sure, once you start considering it, factors like the above can contribute to the decision – poverty, disorder in the fetus, etc.

    You think there is a moral imperative to save every life

    by demanding we save all of them to live that way

    Ah, I see, you’re arguing against an imaginary pro-lifer, huh?
    That has nothing to do with how much of a role that ultimately plays as “the unknown” factor when it comes to the actual decision whether to legalize abortion, the answer to which is positive in either case.

    “The main argument against abortion is that as long as the fetus is attached to the mother’s body, she has the autonomy over her body.”

    “I agree with everything you’ve said, except this:”

    Hey, didn’t know I was talking to a fucking looney.

    All of these things **must** be considered by someone when deciding if they even can have the child, never mind who, if anyone, will take care of them, if they can’t.

    We were talking about the LEGALIZATION of abortion (which I fully supported in each of my posts), in fact, that’s what your first post was about:
    “Its one thing if I bet, and lose, its another thing if someone else *forces* me to make such a bet, and I lose.”

    Disingeuous much?
    Yea, if there are problems expected once the baby’s born, then sure, better abort it than kill it afterwards, right?

    The whole point in the “abortion debate”, however, is to demonstrate that killing it before birth is more acceptable than killing it after birth.
    The “unknown”, lesser status of the fetus, as well as the fact that its life is directly bound to the mother’s body, do that job.

    Arguing that it’s okay to abort when you expect problems after birth, because there could be problems after birth, is a bit of a tautology at that point, is it not?

    However, while my case is clear, you’ve just shot yourself in the foot with your rambling and your ranting:

    “life” so much as merely survival, and daily hell, for some of those precious children

    Great, so I suppose that makes it alright to kill homeless children, since their “life” is just daily hell, and it would only be an act of mercy to put them out of their misery?
    Moron.
    You just don’t get when a line of argument is bad, ineffective and counterproductive, do you?

    the option you want to deny

    Please, just go away. Fuck off. You make my ears bleed.

    You’re fighting against windmills here (in accordance with the analogy, completely oblivious), and it’s just pathetic.

    Bye, and take a fucking reading class… please!!

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