I can’t say that Christopher Hitchens had a philosophical core—he did not. Thus the attempts in this BBC tribute to imbue the stands Hitchens took over the years with nobility fall flat. However, the late Mr. Hitchens possessed a formidable intellect and was both a great rhetorician and writer. One can agree with the somewhat prosaic Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who once worked as an intern for Hitchens.” Clegg said: “Christopher Hitchens was everything a great essayist should be: infuriating, brilliant, highly provocative and yet intensely serious.”
BBC News doesn’t divulge who dubbed Hitchens “a drink-sodden ex-Trotskyist popinjay.” BUT I can tell you it was MP George Galloway. The quaint “popinjay” coinage gives Galloway (what a character!) away. Besides, back in 2005, I had blogged about the delightful joust between Galloway and Hitchens, RIP. I am nothing if not consistent. Here is what I wrote at the time:
Now hold your horses, will you, because I also admire Christopher Hitchens as a stylist, conversationalist, and an extraordinary flyter. What is flyting, you ask? It’s an ancient Scottish form of invective, a true master of which is the MP George Galloway. I don’t care for his or Hitchens’ ever-shifting views, but I loved the flyting that flew between the two. Galloway called Hitchens a drink-sodden ex-Trotskyist popinjay. Hitchens responded over the pages of an august publication by likening the lickspittle praise Galloway once bestowed on him to spittle flung in place of argument. Later on, the two dueled deliciously on C-Span, where, I’m afraid, Hitchens proved his uncontested superiority in this spontaneous rhetorical art.