Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Christopher Hitchens...libertarian?

In an otherwise innocuous article about the reaction of western governments to Muslim hysteria over the inconveniences of free speech, the BBC's Paul Reynolds notes the struggle of governments to "reconcile a defence of free speech with criticism of the media for exercising that right," and points out that:

The nuanced approach to the competing rights of free speech and responsibility has led to criticism from right-wing and libertarian quarters in the West.

In the United States, writer Christopher Hitchens launched into the State Department spokesman in these terms: "How appalling for the country of the First Amendment [protecting the freedom of the press] to be represented by such an administration."

Unprincipled and hypocritical might have been a better description of the approach, but this being an objective news piece, "nuanced" is, I suppose, somewhat understandable.

Less understandable is Reynolds' apparent belief that Christopher Hitchens occupies right-wing or libertarian quarters. While it is certainly true that Hitchens has been a strong supporter of the war in Iraq and hence, at least in that respect, a supporter of President Bush, a man who laments the loss of his association with socialism "like a lost limb", continues to think that redistributing wealth is a good thing, and who still speaks of his associates as "comrades", can hardly be characterized as a man of the right.

Even more absurd is the implication that he can be counted among libertarians, who actually oppose wealth redistribution even more than those on the political right, and whose representatives, from the mainstream establishment down to the uncompromising fringes, were entirely opposed to the one thing that Hitchens has been most outspoken in supporting...the Iraq war.

Now, it is certainly true that this a very minor point within the context of Reynolds' overall piece, the value of which hardly rested upon the incorrect characterization of Hitchens' political sympathies. But if the BBC cannot be trusted to grasp the difference between an anti-capitalist who argues from leftist principles for the invasion of Iraq, and laissez-faire capitalists who argue against that very same invasion, just what can it be trusted to grasp?

6 Comments:

Blogger Natalie said...

There is a strain of pro-war libertarianism. I describe myself as a pro-Iraq war libertarian. (although I occasionally fail the various Libertarian Purity Tests floating about the web.)

Not all the contributors to Samizdata describe themselves as libertarian, and not all were in favour of the Iraq war. But many of them - most, I think - would tick both boxes.

11:08 AM  
Blogger Natalie said...

Sorry, I didn't quite understand the comment form so my last comment came out more nearly anonymous than I intended. It was from me, Natalie Solent.

11:14 AM  
Blogger JohnM said...

Apart from the war, Christopher Hitchens remains firmly on the left. Regard his defence of Mumia, despite the the clear evidence of guilt. Even Michael Moore agrees that Mumia is gulity!

That said, his comments over the cartoons are very good.

3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

laisser faire entrer le pétrole irakien sous le contrôle américain sort of laisser-faire ?

6:43 PM  
Blogger Peg C. said...

Other bloggers have pointed out that agreement on an issue (anti-war) from opposite sides (anti-American socialist/communist vs. pro-American libertarian isolationist) does not common cause make in any sense. It does, however, cause the anti-war Democrats and MSM (redundant) to completely mischaracterize poll results that show a high percentage of Americans being unhappy with the foreign policy direction of the country. Many who do not believe in nation-building or regime change nevertheless believe in annihilating the enemy, and are unhappy that we are doing the former without having done the latter. (I happen to believe in all 3 but no one would ever mistake me for a libertarian.) The Left persists in lumping all unhappy Americans together but that is a fatal mistake. It is not the right that misunderstands nuance, it is the left. They are incapable of it.

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding Hitchen's opinion on libertarianism--he states his ideological temptation towards the libertarian position EXPLICITLY in this interview: [0:13-0:39]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2jJN7oHifA

He started out in younger days an avowed socialist, but over his lifetime continually evolved more a more libertarian position.

11:20 PM  

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