Yesterday the news came out that Christopher Hitchens has been canceling the promotion dates for his book Hitch-22 because he will undergo chemotherapy on his esophagus. The brief statement released by him on Vanity Fair‘s website read: “I have been advised by my physician that I must undergo a course of chemotherapy on my oesophagus. This advice seems persuasive to me. I regret having had to cancel so many engagements at such short notice.”
A cancer diagnosis, especially one with as high mortality rate as esophageal cancer (less than 5% of a 5 year survival rate), is always grim news, so I sympathize with him on a personal level. Yet I have no problem with saying that for someone who never lets people forget he is a former Trotskyist, Hitchens’ political reasoning (or lack thereof) has been poor, at best, and disastrous, at worst. His rapid shift to neoconservatism and pseudo-Orwellian posturing about “leftist” internationalism means that he has been intellectually complicit in the ill-guided wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the last nine years, probably more so than any other public intellectual in Europe or the U.S.
While a prolific writer such as him won’t be silenced until his time has absolutely come, ultimately Hitchens will be remembered in posterity as an iconoclastic figure – a self-described “conservative Marxist” and a great polemicist, who unfortunately used his intellectual talents to support aggressive interventions while masking them as a cause all real Leftists should support. Let history and hindsight be the ultimate judges of his legacy.