In which I am unimpressed with Hitchens

It’s just his latest effort in Slate — I’m not unimpressed with Hitchens the man at all. It’s just that I did not find his subject particularly interesting, since it’s a discussion about whether Rick Perry is actually sincere about his religious beliefs, or whether he’s only pandering to the rubes.

I don’t care. Not one bit.

All that matters is what he actually does, not his motivation for doing it. Given that he’s promoting idiotic policies and giving support to foolish beliefs, it wouldn’t matter if he was doing it to support starving orphans in Africa.

Hitchens seems aware that his motives don’t matter. So why write about them?

Is it better to have a candidate who actually believes in biblical inerrancy and the extreme youthfulness and recency of the Grand Canyon, or a candidate who half-affects such convictions in the hope of political gain? Either would be depressing. A mixture of the two—not excluded in Perry’s case—would lower the tone nicely.

Perry is accomplishing that, at least, in collaboration with Bachmann.

I like Cuttlefish’s take on Perry better, even if it does include Texas yodeling.


  1. Gord O'Mitey says

    It does matter. If he’s sincere, he’s a fool, & I’ll send him to Heaven. If he’s pandering to the rubes, he’s a lying son of a bitch, & I’ll send him to Hell.

    And if he’s both, I’ll make him my right-hand man, err sorry, right-hand Seraph.

  2. rw23 says

    Face it, yanks: you’re fucked.

    On the one hand, you have religious nutters pandering to the stupids in an attempt to get elected. On the other, you’ve got triangulators cold-heartedly abandoning any principle they once might have had in order to capture the middle ground and thereby play the numbers game.

    All the talking in the world isn’t going to change that, not for a generation at least (assuming you can get a new movement off the ground).

    I just wish my country’s politicians weren’t so happily copying yours.

    I’ll have to join you in the metaphorical bunkers.

  3. says

    Hitchens seems aware that his motives don’t matter. So why write about them?

    Because they do matter in the larger scheme of things, or rather, the whole of the appeals to religious sentiment matter as a social function.

    It’s not that Perry’s motives that matter so much, it’s that there’s a whole often-hypocritical appeal to religion that continues without even the religious caring if the person really means it. Why not? They’d skewer Obama if they could show that he really doesn’t believe Xianity, and especially if his personal beliefs tended toward either Islam or atheism.

    Of course the real reason that they don’t care if Perry’s just grandstanding in front of the religious is that it is about power and not about religion. I suppose that’s why it really does matter little in the end whether the politician is affecting religiosity or really believes it, but it does matter that it is about power, in the end.

    Glen Davidson

  4. says

    Even if Perry is an opportunist it’s not as if he’s going to shout “Surprise, suckers! I just pretended to believe that dumb crap to get elected. I’m not actually going to impliment it!” the moment he’s inagurated. He’ll want to get reelected, so he’ll have to look like he’s trying to impliment it, and most likely will succeed getting some of it done.

  5. Johan Fruh says

    I think the motivation behind can have an importance.

    It will dictate his fervor if he were to gain political grounds.

    If he was just being tactical, his fervor would be very quickly diluted in the hopes of pleasing the larger group people later on…. (just look at Obama’s political evolution).

    But ya… I guess it doesn’t change the fact that he.. just.. must.. not.. win…
    But that will mostly be dictated by how much democrats are displeased with Obama…


  6. tmscott says

    Hitchens seems aware that his motives don’t matter. So why write about them?

    Because shining the light on the cockroaches makes them scatter.

  7. Qwerty says

    Carol Hall’s “The Sidestep” from the musical “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” was about as accurate a description of ANY governor of the great (well, in their minds) state of Texas.

    It would be nice if they just left the union instead of sending their incompetent politicians to Washington, DC.

  8. leftwingfox says

    Well, I think it matter in regards to whether or not the individual will go out of their way to make changes or merely sign whatever lands on their desk. We are WELL beyond that point with Perry, even if he dosen’t believe it, he sure acts like he does.

    We already know that Perry has repeatedly appointed creationists to school boards. We know that Perry will enact pointless harassment legislation to make abortion more difficult, and in fact make it a priority over the normal acts of governance. ( ) And we know he’s happy to gather the most extreme wack-a-doodles of the Christian Dominionists to speak for him.

  9. Margaret says

    It matters that as many people as possible make it clear that Perry’s stated beliefs are crazy. Whether Perry really believes the nonsense may not be important, but the question makes a nice hook for writing an article to further publicize just how crazy Perry is.

  10. b00ger says

    Stories like this always remind me of a great quote from Kurt Vonnegut: (paraphrased) “Be careful who you pretend to be, because in the end, you ARE who you pretend to be.”

  11. Redhill says

    Both actions & motives matter.

    Actions matter because they have real effects.

    Motives matter because they predict future likely actions.

    I care about both.

    Hitchens seems to be riffing on the old joke, “Sincerity is everything. If you can fake that you’ve got it made.”

  12. Nemo says

    I think sincere might be better, since in that case, it might be possible to change his mind.

  13. Non-Biblical Paul says

    The point was to show how utterly pointless prayer is. Perry’s infamous prayers were obviously affronts to secularism and fairness, but that point doesn’t need to be made, because most conservatives don’t believe in separation of church from state, anyway, regardless of The First Amendment. Therefore, Hitch took a different angle – he showed how stupid prayer is.

  14. Francisco Bacopa says

    I have to agree with Hitch here. A liar is better than a true believer.

    I think Obama is a liar about his Christianity. I understand and approve.

  15. Slaughter Cutlet says

    You’re right, I didn’t read Christopher’s article when I saw the title. But that’s because I’ve seen other bloggers cover the subject already and realised I don’t care either. It matters only what a person does and says as an elected official, not what they privately believe (necessarily).

  16. Nom de Plume says

    It matters for all the reasons already mentioned, but it also matters because fuck knows what kind of pain and drug-induced haze the man dragged himself out of to write it. This is a shitty title to a shitty post.

  17. Trebuchet says

    Hitchens is very wrong about one thing. He says that if it had rained after Perry’s call for prayers nobody would have said that the prayers worked. They most certainly would have.

  18. dccarbene says

    Alas, for my very first submission [I confess to have been lurking for a few months] I see Nom de Plume scooped me – I actually read the piece elsewhere first, was very alarmed at how… atypical… the writing is for Mr. Hitchens, and worried that this might signal a deterioration for him. “Slack must be cut” [I think that’s what I remember from Death of a Salesman.. or was it “Attention must be paid” – anyway, both are true].

    I think Mr. Hitchens will rally again. I hope.

  19. Moggie says

    Nom de Plume:

    It matters for all the reasons already mentioned, but it also matters because fuck knows what kind of pain and drug-induced haze the man dragged himself out of to write it. This is a shitty title to a shitty post.

    Nothing I’ve learned about the man suggests to me that he’d want people to stop reading him critically because of his condition.

  20. Adam says

    Even if Perry doesnt believe the drivel escaping his lips, he still has to pander to people who elected him on the basis of it. Therefore, whether he is speaking sincerely or not is immaterial. Either way his actions will have a poisonous and detrimental effect on science, learning, the environment and many other places.

  21. abb3w says

    I’d disagree a bit, PZ. Presumably there is at least one prospective candidate for the Presidency who you would find preferable to Perry. If it can be demonstrated that Perry is only pandering to the rubes, that opens the possibility this can be demonstrated TO the rubes themselves, which in turn might be used to slightly impede Perry’s electoral prospects.

  22. dartigen says

    PZ is right – it doesn’t matter if he’s sincere or not, he’s still just as much bad news. Manure by any other name still stinks.

    The difference is that if he’s not sincere, he could potentially be exposed as insincere and just pandering, which would destroy his credibility forever. (Granted, it really would affect only one person…but I’m not well-versed in the current politics of the United States so I really don’t know what the overall effect would be. But I do know that here in Australia it would potentially be a career-ender for him, and it might affect his party as well, at least until everyone forgets about it or they find a new poster-person.)

    If he is sincere, well…nothing to be done.