DAMON LINKER DECEMBER 19, 2008
Anyone who doubts that Christopher Hitchens' personal crusade against the god-who-is-not-great is motivated primarily by misanthropy will be disabused by his recent Slate column on the "moral and aesthetic nightmare of Christmas." It is the latter-day Hitch in all his glory: the fearless enemy of tyranny reduced to whining about the "totalitarianism" of kitschy Christmas carols piped into the doctor's office.
Has it really come to this? The harmless (and yes, often tasteless) pop-culture sentimentality that saturates a democratic civil society for a few weeks a year equated with state-sponsored propaganda that deifies the "Dear Leader"? Apparently so. To Hitchens' exquisitely sensitive eyes and ears, the "hectoring, incessant noise," the "tinny, maddening, repetitive ululations," the "cheap and mass-produced images and pictures, from snowmen to cribs to reindeer" -- it's all so similar to what we find in "dismal banana republics." Gee, I hadn't thought of it that way -- at least since I stopped reading Adorno on the incipient fascism of Disney movies.
Now, for my money Hitchens has never had a finely tuned sense of moral proportion. But even for him, this is getting to be a bit much. What can explain his decline into bathetic grouchiness?
I submit that it may well be the company he keeps. Note that fully half of Hitchens' little rant consists of a lament that Christmas cheer has begun even to leave its low-brow mark on high-brow culture in the United States. And what is his example of high culture? The Weekly Standard. Yes, that's right: Hitchens looks for intellectual sustenance from Bill Kristol. No wonder the man is grouchy!
Maybe if we all pitch in to get him subscriptions to The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, and the TLS, Hitchens will be in a better mood by next December. We just better be sure he doesn't mistake it for a Christmas present . . . .