RIP Christopher Hitchens: Provocateur and Damn Good Writer

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011)Nancy Kaszerman/ZUMA Press

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


Christopher Hitchens died today at 62, which is terrifyingly young to people past about 35. He’d been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus while on book tour in 2010 and wrote often about his impending demise, including in his last column for Vanity Fair, written while in treatment at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Hitchens spent much of his writing career taking on sacred cows—you know, Mother Teresa, God—challenging authority, and taking positions infuriating to his friends on the left. Having come into politics as a Trotskyite, he defended Margaret Thatcher (for taking on the Argentine junta during the Falklands War), freaked out pro-choicers by noting that “obviously, the fetus is alive” (a position he explained in Mother Jones in 1995), and lambasted Bill Clinton in, among other places, this MoJo piece: “In all essentials, the Clinton-Gore administration has been Republican, and not all that moderate. On matters of political economy it has pursued the strictest Wall Street and Federal Reserve orthodoxy…”

And, of course, he came out guns blazing in favor of the Iraq War and against what he called “Islamofascism,” for which he’d developed a hatred going back to the Iranian fatwa against his friend Salman Rushdie. Not long before the invasion, in a MoJo piece titled “Rogue Nation USA,” he’d called out the Bush administration for demanding that other countries abide by international treaties while reserving America’s right not to.

It really was all of a piece. Hitchens was fiercely loyal to his friends, to the point where following “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” dictum put him in some strange-bedfellow positions. He loved pissing people off when they least expected it. And he wrote like a fiend, even at the expense of…himself. “Writing is what’s important to me, and anything that helps me do that—or enhances and prolongs and deepens and sometimes intensifies argument and conversation—is worth it to me,” he told Charlie Rose in 2010, in a quote that made his New York Times obituary. It was, he said “impossible for me to imagine having my life without going to those parties, without having those late nights, without that second bottle.”

Judge him if you will. But try doing it it as effectively as he did.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest