another, previously unpublished, christmas screed by the Hitch.
Christopher Hitchens on Forced Merriment, the True Spirit of Christmas
If you take no stock in the main Christian festival of Easter, or if you are a non-Jew who has no interest in atoning in the fall, you have an all-American fighting chance of being able to ignore these events, or of being only briefly subjected to parking restrictions in Manhattan. But if Christmas has the least tendency to get you down, then lots of luck. You have to avoid the airports, the train stations, the malls, the stores, the media and the multiplexes. You will be double-teamed by Bing Crosby and the herald angels wherever you go. And this for a whole unyielding month of the calendar.
I realize that I do not know what happens in the prison system. But I do know what happens by way of compulsory jollity in the hospitals and clinics and waiting rooms, and it's a grueling test of any citizen's capacity to be used for so long as a captive audience.
I once tried to write an article, perhaps rather straining for effect, describing the experience as too much like living for four weeks in the atmosphere of a one-party state. "Come on," I hear you say. But by how much would I be exaggerating? The same songs and music played everywhere, all the time. The same uniform slogans and exhortations, endlessly displayed and repeated. The same sentimental stress on the sheer joy of having a Dear Leader to adore. As I pressed on I began almost to persuade myself. The serried ranks of beaming schoolchildren, chanting the same uplifting mush. The cowed parents, in terror of being unmasked by their offspring for insufficient participation in the glorious events…. "Come on," yourself. How wrong am I?
Peggy Noonan bids farewell to Sarah Palin in the Wall Street Journal. A Republican ex speechwriter for Nixon and Reagan, Noonan turns words with economy and humour. She crafted some killers for this column.
In television interviews she was out of her depth in a shallow pool.
She was limited in her ability to explain and defend her positions, and
sometimes in knowing them. She couldn't say what she read because she
didn't read anything. She was utterly unconcerned by all this and
seemed in fact rather proud of it: It was evidence of her authenticity.
She experienced criticism as both partisan and cruel because she could
see no truth in any of it. She wasn't thoughtful enough to know she
wasn't thoughtful enough.
"The elites hate her." The elites made her. It was the elites of the
party, the McCain campaign and the conservative media that picked her
and pushed her. The base barely knew who she was. It was the elites,
from party operatives to public intellectuals, who advanced her and
attacked those who said she lacked heft. She is a complete elite
confection. She might as well have been a bonbon.
"She makes the Republican Party look inclusive." She makes the party look stupid, a party of the easily manipulated.
Caught by Josh Marshall at TPM, a great backstage moment between Stephen Colbert and John Kerry. First time I've ever seen Colbert out of character. Does he do this with everyone? Making sure they are in on the joke?
-- There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.