Friday, November 14, 2008

Jody Tresidder: Christopher Hitchens and a female boxer

Writer Jody Tresidder has responded to my posting "Obama to close Guantánamo; Hitchens can't imagine" in which I commented on Christopher Hitchens' waterboarding stunt for Vanity Fair ...

Dear Madame,
I just bet Hitchens would have been waspishly snooty had someone else (appropriately dazzling) done the "stunt" first! And Madame's line - "Christopher Hitchens as the intellectuals' David Blaine is about the only nice thing I can think to say about this show-off..." is horribly good.

Still, my stomach agrees with Ms. Baroque's qualified defense of his gumption.

I once interviewed (for the Evening Standard) a fiercely clever and adorable Brit who had become a female boxer here in the US (not a "foxy boxer" - a real contender, even if women in this sport remains something of a stunt draw).

I can still recall almost fainting with unexpected, drenching terror when she quietly marched away from our jolly pre-bout chat down a grimy corridor, and into the distant, noisy, blue flood-lit ring. I suddenly understood she was walking out there to get voluntarily punched very hard by someone else.

I realized I could not ever - not even with the strict safety rules - visibly stricter for women than for men - the meticulous refereeing, the hysterical, uplifting support of the crowd and all her mental and physical preparation - never in a billion, million years, climb up into that ring myself.

And I knew even as I disapproved of her - a little bit- for being suckered by the perverse glamour of it all, she had gumption - and I did not. So my stomach feels the same watching Hitchens here. I couldn't do it.

Darling Jody,
Always a pleasure to read you. I don't doubt Hitchens' courage/gumption/chutzpah - whatever you want to call it. But then Blaine and his kind can boast these attributes. If we are agreed (and I'm not sure we are) that the essential nature of Hitchens submitting himself to waterboarding was a stunt (ie done for self-publicity) then we need not dwell too much on his derring-do. It's amazing how the prospect of even more acclamation steels the heart: camera clicks and flashlight are as mother's milk to the brave self-appointed lab rat. As for the female boxer, that was work. MA xxx


Anonymous said...

What a dreadful cynic Arcati is, full of bile. No wonder she liked Baader-Meinhof.

forgotten ones fund/stephmastini said...

I see Madame as a crystal ball.... and the ones that call others cynics are rather cynical themselves...s.

Anonymous said...

The important element in the Hitchens/waterboarding episode is the way in which experience reversed his view. First, he argued that waterboarding was not "torture", simply a rather uncomfortable procedure. Then, challenged on this view, he volunteered to undergo the procedure - importantly, in order to prove his point. However, having undergone the procedure, he then reversed his opinion entirely, something which he is frankly not known for doing. Any publicity he gained as a result is amply justified by the fact that he reversed his initial opinion in the light of experience. If more journalists and politicians were willing to undergo procedures they either condemn or justify, and then to speak from experience rather than conjecture, surely "the world would be a bettr place"?

Madame Arcati said...

You make a serious point but I'm afaid Mr H is notorious for his switches of opinion. He was once a champion of the left. I don't think anyone would argue that now; indeed at times he sounds like a seasoned neocon but for his clever caveats and diversions and frilly phrase fog banks. Do remember Mr Hitchens is a "contarian" so altering his view, even for visceral, irrational reasons, is crucial if he wishes to remain, er, relevant. One day he'll awake in an afterlife condition and shamelessly confess he made an error before writing for the Psychic Vanity Fair edited by a strange old man with funny hair. He's quite incorrigible.

Anonymous said...

And you make a serious response, Madame. But wouldn't we rather that opinionated and outspoken writers like Hitchens continue to appear in Vanity Fair, rather than turning the magazine over completely to celebrity fawning? Even allowing for the occasional volte face, surely such journalism is rather more satisfying to read than yet another arse-licking profile of a Hollywood celeb?

Madame Arcati said...

Certainly Hitchens' various turns of opinion leaven the serious business of celebrity arse-licking in VF. For myself, I should prefer to read the elegant prose of talents who actually hold an opinion because of a principle. Hitchens strikes poses for their contribution to his greater glory and income. Irony suffuses everything he writes: he actually doesn't believe in anything at all. Nothing. Still, there are worse things he could do. He is essentially talentedly trivial.