The Banal, Bottomless Bigotry of Peter Hitchens
The extant Hitchens brother is an anti-science reactionary whose presence in public discourse is pure poison.
For my birthday, I got the rather delightful present of an angry quote tweet from infamous author and journalist Peter Hitchens. Using a GIF from the 2007 comedy classic Walk Hard — in which the protagonist’s father repeatedly says, “The wrong kid died!” in reference to his brother’s untimely passing — I expressed how that I was felt when I was reminded of Peter’s existence. While I wish no one dead, I miss his brilliant brother Christopher and grow tired of his ever-increasing reactionary fervor.
Both brothers spent much of their younger years as hardline socialists and both took turns of political evolution. Christopher, while still maintaining his love of Trotsky and Marx, embraced the ideals — however flawed their implementation may be — of the American Revolution, an evolution I have gone through myself. I disagree with his support for the Iraq War, among other things, but Christopher was a true intellectual who thought critically, deeply, and with empathy for those living under oppression.
Peter, on the other hand, while calling himself a social democrat, proves that perhaps the ridiculous Stalinist theory of “social fascism” at least applies to someone, as he has adopted as bigoted and reactionary a position possible on practically every non-economic political topic.
As a trans woman, I am of course deeply bothered by his claims that we are “destroying truth itself,” a position that takes a sixth grade understanding of the science of medicine and biology and angrily asserts it as expertise, calling the transition process a “medical conveyor belt,” and not a tricky, hard-to-navigate process medically that is also just as much social and legal. His homophobia is also strong, being a fierce critic of same-sex marriage.
Counter to the decades of research showing cannabis to be a relatively benign drug compared to long legal staples like alcohol and tobacco, Peter, in his 2012 book The War We Never Fought, argues cannabis is, laughably, extremely dangerous. Prohibition by every conceivable metric has failed, and yet he argues for even harsher penalties to deter use. Quite absurdly, he is a denialist of the concept of addiction, arguing that people always have free will.
Of course, a man who is not one for things like peer-reviewed papers and the scientific method is a climate change denialist too. Though there are energy storage problems that have to be solved for effective deployments of wind and solar, he has opposed the use of wind in the UK on the grounds that this would cause blackouts.
Throughout the pandemic that continues to rage around the globe, Peter has argued against measures designed to minimize COVID’s spread such as mask mandates and closing of non-essential businesses. Like many commentators dangerously divorced from reality, he expressed praise for Sweden’s lax pandemic policies, which undoubtedly caused so much more death, disability, and trauma.
Given how destructive a presence this man continues to be in society, one surely cannot blame me for wishing it was instead Christopher whose name occasionally popped across my social media feeds. Though a controversial figure himself, Hitchens took impassioned, well-argued stances on most of the myriad of topics he talked about — railing against leaders like Assad and Putin well before they had as much relevance in political discourse while upholding historical figures with progressive views like Thomas Paine and George Orwell as figures to admire.
Like when I prompted the backlash of Ethan Klein of h3h3 in 2018 over criticizing a transphobic joke of his — and much to his credit, he has moved past his anti-SJW phase — I never expected Peter to see my tweet. However, I do not regret tweeting it. Christopher was a wellspring of insight whose commentary I wish we could have on so many events and issues since his untimely passing. Peter, meanwhile, has nothing worthwhile to the public discourse in a time when we desperately need to ground society in facts and truth.