January 28, 2015

CH wasn't racist? Does anyone still say so?

Here's a quirky article I just found via Twitter. It's an op-ed on the Ricochet website by a chap called Leigh Phillips who says that assertions that Charlie Hebdo is or was racist were simply wrong or as the article's title has it, "Lost in translation...." by "the unilingual left" that is.

Now I didn't much get into je suis Charlie stuff here or on Twitter though I didn't like what I saw as hypocritical outpourings for free speech by various politicos and journos who seemed to be writing a script and insisting we all read from it.  It was a bit like that Life of Brian bit where Brian tells the adoring crowd that they are all individuals and they all, in unison, agree with him.

Anyway, I don't intend to get into whether or not Charlie Hebdo is racist or has carried racist cartoons but (sheesh, I was also uncomfortable with the war on the word "but") I did notice this Leigh Phillips chap hedging a tad on the output of the late Christopher Hitchens - the CH in my title, geddit!?  See this:
For all of Hitchens’ support for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I couldn’t at any point suggest he was a racist.
I've posted this before but I was actually at a London Review of Books meeting on the "war on terror" where panelists included Tariq Ali and Christopher Hitchens and in response to a questioner the latter seemed to berate him more for being from "the Subcontinent" than for what he actually said.
Q[uestioner]. Tariq Ali was the only one I think who mentioned that the United States is the sole global power that we have now and what we are seeing is the dawn of a new imperialism. So why is it that we are so – we, meaning the global community – why are we so content at letting America have its say regardless of what the rest of the world thinks of it. It has committed a whole host of crimes on a vast scale in international law. It is suspending civil rights as far as the al-Qaida prisoners are concerned. It is actually riding roughshod over all norms of international law and why – where is Russia, where is Japan, where are all these countries? 
C[hristopher] H[itchens]. ....I will not reject the challenge from the comrade, who I would say was from the Subcontinent. I would ask him this. He wanted to know why a country that – I think I have you right, sir – was indifferent to the norms of international law, was not more opposed by Russia and China, was that how you had it? Where was Russia, you said, where is China, why do they lie down under this lawlessness? I think your question answers itself: I think you had a real nerve asking it actually, or shall I say Chechnya or Cambodia or North Korea or Tibet or Kurdistan? It wouldn’t make any difference to you – would it? – any more than if I asked you how many people are currently flooding to the borders and ports of your country to immigrate to it – or to Russia or to China. Ask yourself that. One of the greatest problems that the United States has at the present moment is that everyone wants to come and live there: they’re wondering now how generous they can be. We should all have such problems; you will never have a problem like that, and nor will your ideology
Now Mr Phillips may not have been aware of that particular outburst but I'm sure Hitchens's enthusiasm for the war on terror sometimes verged on the genocidal.

I said the article was quirky and that Hitchens bit was just one of many quirks. But (it's that word again) it is worth a read and the comments are worth more than a skim too.

UPDATE: I'm indebted to Gert in the comments for drawing my attention to this blog post by Richard Seymour at Leninology which I think is safe to call a take-down of the Leigh Phillips piece.

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