I've been watching a lot of Christopher Hitchens videos on YouTube.
Most of the topics he's interested in are too controversial for MD (more's the shame), but I wonder if it would be possible to talk about his skills as a debater and orator.
First off, when he's debating he always seems smarter than his opponents. But, even though there's no doubt he was a smart, smart guy, it also seems he was always better prepared than his opponents. So it seems like - to some degree - thorough preparation can make you look smarter
Second, he takes the time to create memorable examples / analogies / metaphors. I think this technique is very effective when building a perspective.
Third, of course he has an English accent and a very English sense of grammar - how much is that a universal, built-in advantage?
Eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. (If you're not on the edge, you're taking up too much room.)
author and iconoclast
An interesting topic. Although I don't have time to weigh in right now (just passing through) I have to mention that it bothers my OCD side that you repeatedly use the present tense to refer to the deceased Mr. Hitchens.
I think he is using the past-pluperfect-present tense. Mr Hitchens was clearly alive when the videos were made. He was alive when he made the arguments.
The past- and future-pluperfect tenses are not frequently used in ordinary English.
Joined: Jun 06, 2002
He seemed to have a great intelligence and a great honesty. It makes me wonder what kind of indoctrination he must have gone through as a youth, that he started his career among such profoundly irrational people and stayed in their good graces until relatively late in his career.
I would have thought an English accent would be like a red flag to a bull, to some people. I'm sure Hitchens himself would have rejected the idea that his accent should be used to support or repudiate what he said, but as you say those things do have an effect.
Paul Clapham wrote:I would have thought an English accent would be like a red flag to a bull, to some people. I'm sure Hitchens himself would have rejected the idea that his accent should be used to support or repudiate what he said, but as you say those things do have an effect.
Hitchens had a strong following here in the UK too, and we've got lots of people with English accents...
I thought he was an interesting fellow and he was good at picking apart a poor argument, so even if you disagreed with his views you had to think hard about a lot of the points he made. MD isn't the place to dive into the big political issues he focused on in recent years, but I agreed with him on some of them and disagreed on others, and reading his take on things was usually challenging and stimulating, either way. Mind you, he could also be quite snarky (we Brits still lead the world in some things!), a trait he shared (snarkiness, not Britishness) with Gore Vidal, another writer whose political observations were often good value for money (IMO at least).
I suspect that both men benefited from a traditional education with plenty of exposure to the classics of both literature and rhetoric, and Hitchens certainly made good use of his Marxist-trained analytical skills, especially when dismantling the arguments of his former comrades. That kind of background is probably less common these days, and it's hard to see where the next generation of serious critical commentators will come from, as so much of our public discourse has been reduced to sub-literate sloganising and spin from hacks in thrall to their corporate and political paymasters. Still I'm pretty sure there was probably some grumpy old Roman scribbling similar thoughts on a wax tablet in about 400 AD! Plus ca change...
Joined: Oct 14, 2002
I'm still loving these Hitchens you-tubes.
High school and college teachers could learn a thing or two from these videos - he makes me interested in topics I never cared about before. I also find myself doing lots of mini-research projects (wikipedia) based on his talks.