Masking Christopher Hitchens.
How would have the late-great thinker navigated one of the sharpest dividers of our Covid times?
I’ve been reading a lot of Christopher Hitchens lately. Hitchens was such an intellectual force that after he died in 2011, the state of public discourse actually suffered in a noticeable way.
We desperately needed Hitch at various times over the last decade plus. But perhaps we needed him most during the COVID-19 pandemic. If anyone could have effectively pushed back against the homicidal stupidity of the deniers, down-players, and anti-vaxxers, it would have been Hitchens. And later, if anyone would have exhibited the reasonableness behind behavioral choices that reflect an individual’s ever-changing risk tolerance (without putting others in harm’s way), same man.
Aside #1: Reading Hitchens is a singular experience. The work of most great writers makes we want to write. Hitchens, by contrast, makes me want to read. (The fact that we both published at Slate gives me hit of dopamine every time I think of it; had the timing had been different, I might have had the chance to know him. Then again, if anyone was going to see right through me, it would have been Hitchens. So maybe, for me, the unblemished fantasy is better.)
Still, as I work my way through his writing—and he was as prolific as they come—I find myself occasionally taking notes, a point of disagreement, or a question. “Would he still think so, today?” is a frequent one. Only occasionally do I possess the domain expertise to even ponder pushing back against some point he made, or to wish he’d been able to see a little further into the future than would be fair to ask.
I recently came across an essay that stopped and made me think, “Would Hitch have resisted masking during the Covid-19 pandemic?” I’m pretty sure I know the answer.