I'm sure Chris Hitchens was all the alcoholic yet deadline-keeping genius as the obits are saying, but let's get one thing clear: He was not the great essayist of our time, and he was often guilty of the same hypocrisy he so vehemently railed against in his work.
Every generation may need its own malcontent to cut those in power down to size, a David to the world's Goliaths. But while essayists like Voltaire and George Orwell used the gentle prod of satire to point to injustice, Chris Hitchens' work more often than not came from a place of sheer contrarianism, condescension and cynicism—which is to say, a place of hate.
I offer: "There are more terrible female comedians than there are terrible male comedians, but there are some impressive ladies out there. Most of them, though, when you come to review the situation, are hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three."
The part that struck me more, though, was this quote from Hitchens' book "Hitch-22": “It was, if I can phrase it like this, a matter of everything I hated versus everything I loved ... In the hate column: dictatorship, religion, stupidity, demagogy, censorship, bullying, and intimidation. In the love column: literature, irony, humor, the individual, and the defense of free expression.”
Yet when I read "Why Women Aren't Funny" I hear the voice of a bully, an intimidator, a dictator of paternalism. And while he was wholly anti-religion, he still approaches gender with the black-white dichotomy of any cable TV zealot—or hackneyed standup comic, for that matter. And how is his message–that women on the whole cannot be as funny as their male counterparts—not a tool of censorship, an attack on the free expression of women trying to make it in the business?
I've had the pleasure of working with some budding Chris Hitchens types in college, and I found that behind the bravado and snark is a lonely, insecure man who is definitely not getting laid as much as he suggests. His was a bald-faced interpretation of the world at face value, with paternalism as the righteous status quo. Some contrarian.