Christopher Hitchens (1949–2011)

“My life is my writing before it’s anything,” Christopher Hitchens said to the Globe in 2010. The British-born journalist, author, speaker and debater, passionate atheist, and unrelenting instigator passed away yesterday in Houston, after battling esophageal cancer. We wanted to share some of our favourite quotes from the Hitch on journalism and writing—words from a man who, above all the other roles he played and distinctions he earned, was a truly excellent and dedicated writer.

Every day, the New York Times carries a motto in a box on its front page. “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” it says. It’s been saying it for decades, day in and day out. I imagine most readers of the canonical sheet have long ceased to notice this bannered and flaunted symbol of its mental furniture. I myself check every day to make sure that the bright, smug, pompous, idiotic claim is still there.

—from Letters To A Young Contrarian, 2001

An honestly expressed prejudice, well-written and heedless of consequence, usually supplies the most memorable journalism. Those who fear to be thought “offensive” or “elitist”are as indentured as those who tremble at the proprietor or the advertiser or—often the worst enemy—the circulation department.

—from “Missionary Positions” in Wilson Quarterly, 1991

The disquieting thing about newscaster-babble or editorial-speak is its ready availability as a serf idiom, a vernacular of deference. “Mr. Secretary, are we any nearer to bringing about a dialogue in this process?” Here is the politically correct language of the consensus, which can be spoken while asleep or under hypnosis by any freshly trained microphone-holder.

—from “Minority Report” in the Nation, 1991

In dealing with newspaper proprietors, it is essential to know a great deal about vagary and conceit.

—from “Heart of Darkness” in the London Review of Books, 1990

I became a journalist because I did not want to rely on newspapers for information.

—from Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays, 2004

Thank you, Mr. Hitchens.

Posted on December 16, 2011 at 10:37 am by editor · · Tagged with: 

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