What Sort of People are the Christopher Hitchens Fan Club?

October 2, 2012

By Peter Hitchens

I can’t really claim that I never notice the extraordinarily spiteful attacks on me which come from one particular quarter. They're almost impossible to miss. Some of them are on Twitter. Others arrive here directly. Others surface in various places on the Internet. Those responsible claim to be admirers of my late brother, Christopher.

Read more (hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk)


Anonymous said...

fucking wanker.

Peter Hitchens said...

See what I mean?

Tyler T, said...

This is hilarious.

Steve H said...

Peter Hitchens claiming to eschew the ad hominem is as credible as Wayne Rooney claiming to lay off the pies.

The man cannot sensibly construct a defence of an argument. His column these days consists mainly of complaining that he isn't invited onto the TV and radio as often as he imagines he deserves, and insiting that he IS funny despite what people say.

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Thomas J said...

I have to admit, Peter Hitchens has got a point here. Sadly, the "Christopher Hitchens Fan Club" does seem to include a fair number of idiots, though obviously a minority. I suspect they are mainly the people who know him only from YouTube and probably lack the attention span to read his books. It's a shame, because if anyone deserved a more intelligent following, it was Christopher Hitchens.

Anonymous said...

Just google; Hitchens versus Hitchens.

See what I mean?

Anonymous said...

Hard to imagine that Christopher fans would waste their time in the manner he alludes to.
So many noisy religious loonies, so little time.

Michael said...

So let me get this straight: These fans of Christopher's support him due only to a non-rational rejection of their upbringing, own his books but don't read them, and dislike Peter because he's intelligent and writes like Christopher, therefore, somehow, making us doubt Christopher's writings (that we didn't read). Peter ends this article by suggesting it is we who are deluded and he began it by wondering why these fans think he's a wanker. The only thing that would have made this article funnier is if he ended it with "QED".

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with PH here...the number of times I've seen abusive, mean-spirited and just plain stupid language directed towards him in CH's youtube videos (and other places...see "fucking wanker" above) is ridiculous. That level of vitriol does actually seem to be arising from an emotional place rather than an intellectual one.

Peter Hitchens said...

In reply to 'Michael'. No. I didn't say that. I said what I said, and which can be checked above by any interested, dispassionate reader. Why not respond to that, instead of inventing a different version, and sneering at it?

Jeffery Thompson said...

Less than a year after Christopher Hitchens faced a certain, painful death with courage and humour, his brother expects our sympathy because he's been..er.. "called names".

vlodko62 said...

Peter - I suspect you're right about people buying books - Christopher's or others' - and not reading them. As you know, he mentions you in at least a few.

Also, it's possible that some people are setting Christopher up in their minds as a kind of guru or secular saint (I wish we could get Christopher's opinion on that!). Such people might react to his perceived opponents with a kind of religious fervor - and to a brother who opposes him as a kind of heretic. Some may also have a feeling that you might not be as successful as you are if it weren't for Christopher's influence (even if you "benefit" in a kind of backward way). I don't think that's completely true - after all, by analogy, Paul McCartney tried to set up his brother as a musician in the 1970s. I can't remember the guy's name - and even the fact is just a point of trivia.

That being said, you are also a public figure who has taken a stance (on religion vs. atheism) opposite Christopher's, so you should expect to get a lot of vitriol thrown at you, particularly from devotees of Christopher's works and followers of his point of view. To complain about that in the Daily Mail seems a bit rich.

Here's another, more subtle reason you may be getting so much abuse. I've looked at one or two of your books and articles, so I think I can say that I disagree with you about several things (religion vs. atheism being the most salient). There are also things that I disagreed with Christopher on (the Iraq War being one). Bear with me on this next point: you are a good writer - Christopher, I'd argue, was a great writer (in terms of his command of the language). His use of the language was so powerful, that it sometimes seduced people, even if one did not agree. That's a rare quality that you don't find with most writers, and I think that's another difference between his writing and yours, so that this fact exacerbates some of the other issues above. Though, most likely, it operates on a semi-conscious level with most readers.


Peter Hitchens said...

Curious that contributors here think that I'm seeking sympathy (Where do I say that? I have no desire for it) or that I'm surprised by having vitriol thrown at me (I'm not.I have been having buckets of slime poured over my head by opponents for years, long before this business started).

I even get comments on my writing style and fame as compared to those of my brother. Why compare us at all? What is the objective scale on which anyone can do this authoritatively? What does it matter?

Thanks all the same, but as far as I'm concerned, the abuse can continue indefinitely, and I rather expect that it will. As I clearly say in the original article, I'm inured to this sort of thing. I've been insulted by experts, and these people are not experts. I wrote, on my own blog, some calm reflections on *why* such strange, vindictive fury should be directed at me. Your host here provided a link to it, and the first comment neatly reinforced my point. Rather than lecturing me for having a thin skin, which I don't have, or for complaining or seeking sympathy, which I didn't do (though as I said, I cannot claim to like it), contributors here might examine themselves rather than analysing me, and wonder about the company they are keeping.

There is something specially intolerant, personally vicious and irrational about much modern atheism, which really ought not to be the case if these atheists are as rational and enlightened as they like to congratulate themselves for being.

And I am very interested in the origins of this rage, as I believe its wellsprings are an important part of the argument about religious belief.

Lea said...

Christopher Hitchens is my Savior. After finding him on the net a few months back and sucking in every possible dabate of his he changed my whole life. I feel at peace and free from all the frustrating bullshit out there that had influenced my life in a negative way.
Im no brainiac so please no slams. Im learning and renewing my life at my own pace and ALL of my questions he has answered. Thank You Christopher for giving my life meaning

christopher isherwood said...


Your brothers recounts of your childhood were beautifully orated in Hitch 22. In what I have heard and read about his relationship with you (from his books) he always seemed courteous at an absolute minimum. From memory I think he said "our differences are not small ones". Though external observations from anyone of two brothers relationship seems frivolous at best.

Regarding the crazed messages you receive, I agree with your point that some of these people may well not have read much of his work. His sentiment would not be expressed in any such way.

I will avoid the obvious temptation to compare the crazed religious zealots that wished the same or worse upon Christopher, but this in itself provides some balance to your statements about atheists. There is no broad brush that can group members on either side.

My father is a Methodist minister and I am a devout Atheist. You are absolutely correct in your presumption that many of my teenage rebellions were against my parents beliefs, however i would protest that my developed opinions are the result of considered thought and reflection.

I do share many of the moral beliefs of christians but as Mr.Dawkins and Christopher taught me, these are available to practice without fear of eternal torture should i not adhere.

Thankyou for the article though, it makes interesting reading.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
October 3, 2012 7:21 PM
fucking wanker.

Peter Hitchens said...
October 4, 2012 5:50 PM
See what I mean?

No, I have no idea what you mean. The impolite comment was a response to the article.

Sorry but my sense is you were trying to market the idea that atheists have to live in mortal fear of being wrong.
I don't wish you any ill, but those old canards are boring. Pax tibi.

Anonymous said...

I've honestly never come across a CH fan as described above, as a US citizen, in my life. I have, however, witnessed the regular Internet "trolls", of the likely age of 15-20, who simply enjoy being moronic on the Internet and jumping on band wagons. The people who buy his books most likely do so because he was (to me, and many others) a mastermind of the English language who was able to deliver the thoughts of all secular people in a manner that no one of us could ever hope to achieve. I never imagined that his smoking or drinking was ever a factor, nor do I now. I find much of what I read to be somewhat of a discredit to the brilliance and success of CH, which is sad. I work with math, not words, so I'll just leave this at my simple opinion.

Anonymous said...

And as well, it's quite obvious that vitriol arises from emotion, as that is the only manner in which vitriol can arise. Intellect and reason, and certainly not logic of course, do not produce things like anger or vitriol, human emotion does. It is simple definition. Clearly people become emotional over serious issues, and over issues that involve people who they deeply admire. Find me a human who operates on pure reason and logic and you will not have found me a human. That's what we call "captain obvious", to an above commenter.

James said...

I'm not sure what conclusion the author expects readers to come to when he writes of his persecution and the poor qualities of those who injure him if not the inferred "Oh, look how I am made to suffer at the hands of idiots".

Mr. Hitchens may not have noticed that stupid people participate enthusiastically on the internet. His is not a special case, and might best be addressed with indifferent silence. The article does nothing but pay cruel and stupid comments more attention than they deserve.

Anonymous said...

Peter, I actually agree with some of what you say, however, the phenomenon of irrational and vitriolic atacks on people is much larger and endemic than you account for. The human brain is just not built for rational thinking in general; we FEEL the world more than we think it and this applies to even our most 'rational' of thoughts.

All of us are just plan mad to be frank; and it takes Hurculean effort to ever be rational. I think you'll find you are guilty fo this nonsense yourself if you can manage to be objective and self-critical (another very difficult task for the old CNS). But, yes, some of us are better at it than others...

P.s. I asked for some evidence of Castro's "torturing" of people on your blog; do you think you could offer it here? I think anti-communism and anti-Castroism is one of these emotional and knee-jerk phenomenon that you are talking about (people just FEEL that Castro is a torturer and maniac). But, I am willing to be proven wrong, so please help out with a good reference, thanks)

Anonymous said...

"And I am very interested in the origins of this rage, as I believe its wellsprings are an important part of the argument about religious belief."

The picture of you sitting there in deep contemplation of this "profound" observation is just not realistic to me. We could just as easily contemplate the wellsprings which culminate in the hate mail folders of any popular Atheist. But, you know this already, don't you? Please take the cheap points, with our blessing. We have no need of them on this side.

Anonymous said...

Some tens of people laughing at wit drawn from Christopher's vast body of work (in a memorial service no less) is evidence that the bulk of Hitch's work lies unread?
Generalisations drawn from YouTube videos tacked onto a nonexistent essentialist construct of Hitch fans.
This piece by Peter Hitchens draws huge conclusions from scant evidence and betrays a vast ignorance of human nature. I wonder if his assessment of the hate mail folder of Michael E Mann would include spotty teenagers yelling at the local weatherman; or that of Paul Offit's include YouTube clips of hippies drinking Chai Tea.

That being said, I do feel for the man. It's a difficult position to be in, no doubt.

Michael said...

Ok, lets review.
In response to your beliefs a about these fans of your brothers:
"So let me get this straight: These fans of Christopher's support him due only to a non-rational rejection of their upbringing, own his books but don't read them, and dislike Peter because he's intelligent and writes like Christopher, therefore, somehow, making us doubt Christopher's writings (that we didn't read). Peter ends this article by suggesting it is we who are deluded and he began it by wondering why these fans think he's a wanker."
You then accused me of inventing something you didn't say so I could sneer at it.
So lets see if that's the case. I started:
"These fans of Christopher's support him due only to a non-rational rejection of their upbringing,"

Because you wrote:
"I have a theory that the enormous success of my brother’s anti-God book (which was a colossal seller in the USA) was caused by a huge cultural revolution among American college kids, brought up in Christian homes and Christian towns, arriving at their campuses and throwing off what they regard as the tedious moral shackles of a suburban faith. What they liked about Christopher was that, in debates and TV appearances, he made their pastors and their parents look foolish , and his English Oxford smoothness gave an intellectual cover to what was in most cases an almost elemental rage against their backgrounds."

I continued:
"own his books but don't read them,"

Because you wrote:
"I’m not sure they actually read his writings all that much, though they like to possess them"
Backing this empty assertion up with:
"For them, these jests were a fresh and novel experience. For the rest of us, they were well-known, enough to conjure a smile, but not a laugh."

I continued:
"and dislike Peter because he's intelligent and writes like Christopher, therefore, somehow, making us doubt Christopher's writings (that we didn't read)."

Because you wrote:
"My suspicion is that, for some of these people, since the very things they admire him for are the very things that I most specifically reject, the idea that I am closely related to him, have a similar education and background, is close to unbearable."
"Yet my voice is eerily similar to their hero’s and I bear the same surname ."
"If I am related, and if I am intelligent, then that means that it is possible they may be wrong about God and the Self."

I ended:
"Peter ends this article by suggesting it is we who are deluded and he began it by wondering why these fans think he's a wanker."

Because you wrote:
"I treasure the hope that these poor lost children will grow up enough, one day, to see what a sad, hopeless and deluded view of the world this is"
And in regards to all this negative feedback:
" I am saying that they exist, and that they continue to occur quite frequently, and that I find them interesting."

I'd add that the entire intro to this over long musing is little more than a build up to a fantastically flawed bit of psychoanalysis attempting to explain why people think you are a wanker. But I've quoted quite enough of your silly article for my purpose.

So lets leave it at this; what I did was not attempt to invent "a different version, and sneering at it?", I read it, correctly summarized its salient points, and THEN sneered at it. As any dispassionate reader can see.

Peter Hitchens said...

I'm asked about Fidel Castro and Torture. Look up the sad case of Huber Matos, Castro's former comrade, who recounts how his 'genitals were pierced' during 20 years of cruel imprisonment.

Anonymous said...

"look up"-- ok I will... but I thought you might have a book, or human rights report link or something that might have established its bona fides already... but yeah I'll google it. Thanks... and for the record, I think you've made some decent points in your article vis-a-vis your brother's fans; but you lack a certain self-awareness that makes you appear a bit puerile Peter (although you will probably discount this analysis as most insular people would, myself included). At any rate, I still think you made some good points.

I actually have a Christopher Hitchens tattoo despite the fact that he insulted me personally once (via email and on the phone) and that we disagree on some issues. Why? Cuz he was/is a badass and that trumps everything. Most people are spineless worms; and he was not. It's the same reason I like Fidel. I like people with fucking backbone (it's the fascist in me I suspect). Lol...

1stLt.L.Diablo said...

Ok, Peter I looked up Matos and could only glean that he was tortured by prison guards. If you have a link that could point to Fidel being involved I will read it.

Until then, I will just have to assume that the man was tortured by a sadist inside the Cuban penal system not unlike how US and UK prisioners are mistreated by sociopaths and sadists inside our own judicial system.

Further, the US has offcially sanctioned torture inside various state programs like MK Ultra and COINTELPRO even leading to murder. I doubt anyone would then place our presidents at the time (e.g., Einsenhauer, Nixon, Kennedy, Johnson, et.al.) under the rubric of "torturer" even in the face of this evidence.

I think unless you have some specific evidence that Fidel personally ordered or carried out torture programs, you need to admit he is not unlike any head of state: he has rouge elements within his state apparatus that do evil and twisted shit to innocent people.

Even in the last 10 years Bush and Cheney have admitted torturing people, but nobody says that is what they are: Torturers.

I just think the human brain is incapable of being rational or objective in these matters. You being a right winger just cannot help but call Fidel a torturer despite the lack of evidence that he is any different that any other head of state vis-a-vis these cases. I being a leftist want to defend Fidel and instead call Bush a torturer for the same reasons (torture did occur on his watch). Let's be objective... no leader can control every prison guard or police officer or CIA agent; and there will always be madmen who torture people. You can only hold a leader responsible if it is systematic and evidence proves he was involved. A few cases here and there, while obscene and evil, still do not justify calling the head of state a torturer.

Was president Clinton a torturer becuase Damien Elchols was tortured in an Arkansas prision during Bill's presidency? See how insane it sounds? Even inside an autocratic society, not every thing is a directive from El Commandante.

I doubt I'll hear back from you, but I hope you either provide me with some eividence to convince me that Fidel is actually a systematic and culpable torturer or you'll concede my point.

Anonymous said...

Hey Peter! Your brother destroyed your ass in that debate!

Anonymous said...

Peter Hitchens Christianity is an emotional religion with an emotional God. God so loved the world that he gave his son. Often God is angry and jealous. To claim you are the rational one and are beyond any emotion is just wrong. You are human and carry the same vulnerability to experience and emotion. One can reduce your Christianity to mere emotions if you want to play that game. There are many reasons people liked your brother like there are many different reasons people are religious.

Hitchens is not great (either of them) said...

Don't worry, Peter. Some of us think of both of you as over-privileged, self-important, armchair generals - making pseudo-intellectual cases for wars that kill thousands of innocents to serve the agenda of the oil companies.

Nicholas M said...

At first when i came to understand Peter was related to Chris i considered Peter to be outside of Chris's truth. But having seen Peter on various programs in which he appears to discuss / debate a plethora of topics he generally has very reasoned arguments. He is not exactly the opposite to his brother, Chirs, they are similar in many ways, most notably the emphasis on delivering a clear message. But when it comes to the topic of religion Chris has beaten the message into the ears of people like me that religion has done a great damage to society and i guess people see that Peter is religious and have a brain freeze moment. I don't have any issues with peter myself, i certainly wouldn't wish ill on him. The route to solving this situation and similar situations is to be more tolerable of others opinions, which is easier said than done i know. Maybe militant atheism is at work here.

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Steve H said...

I certainly wouldn't compare PH to his late brother, partly because I see no relevance in doing so but mostly because it would be appallingly crass. PH could be the most atrocious man alive and he still wouldn't deserve to be publicly taunted with the loss of his brother.

However, it is noticeable that his "look who hates me this week" writings of late have concentrated almost exclusively on the nastiness of "members of the Chistopher Hitchens fan club" when there are many people who publicly loathe PH without ever having heard of his brother.

I reckon that the vast majority of CH fans wouldn't stoop to using him as a posthumous stick with which to beat his brother (regardless of how much they might privately loathe him), both out of simple good manners and because that would demean the memory of CH.

They certainly wouldn't stoop to the level of Stephen Fry who conveniently exploits his bipolarity to justify both spiteful attacks on others and self-pity whenever he himself is criticised.

However, Fry isn't the only one who tries to have it both ways. PH very publicly professes to follow the teachings of Christ while earning a fat fee for writing a column fulminating about all the people and types of people he dislikes. Not a word of understanding or tolerance in any of it. The vengeful god appears far more to his taste than the loving but then he is a tabloid columnist.

ian said...

Everything was great until the last paragraph. A thick headed ego jumped in and broke up the party of a very well thought psycho anylsis of a situation very close to you, which can be difficult to do. People love a thick headed, rebelious, sometimes abrasive, arguer..if they are arguing what they believe. They loathe them if they are arguing what they dont believe. Simple is that, no one is afraid of you being right, that's your ego talking, you are the face of opposition in their core beliefs and it pains them that you are close to their hero.


Christopher reads from Hitch-22: A Memoir