Tuesday, February 16, 2010


As I was writing about two beautiful figure skaters, I came across a fascinating negative criticism of the Olympics by Christopher Hitchens.

In his recent Newsweek article titled "Fool’s Gold," Hitchens told how the Olympics and other international competitions bred conflict and brought out the worst in human nature.

It was fun to read, and it rang the bell that always rings when something is over-advertised, like the up-and-coming opening ceremony that promises it will outdo the last stupendous ceremony (which went on too long, and put me to sleep. )

Hitchens sifted through sports history, and wrote about "the most rank and depressing traits of the human personality." His article was decorated with revealing photos of some Olympian contenders looking evilly jealous, gritting their teeth, grimacing, stifling groans.

Like a doctor, Hitchens examined the weaknesses in teams, their leaders, and fans. And cleverly, constantly interspersed snide remarks, and slightly self-derisive humor, especially when he described the Vancouver ski team's spiteful, petty conduct. (As they rehearsed on the mountain, they refused to let outsiders test the ski run till the Olympics opened.)

Hitchens discussed how contests around the world led to orgies of hatred, and the steady decline of friendship between various countries' ethnic groups.

And, in italicized asides, Hitchens threw in, conversationally, remarks like -- "Wait! Have you ever had a discussion about higher education that wasn't polluted with babble about the college teams, and the amazingly lavish, on-campus facilities for the cult of athletic warfare?"

Returning to the Vancouver bosses with their "bloatedly over-funded spitefest," and other "don't care people" who ordered the "choppering of white stuff from the north" (to bring snow to the slopes), Hitchens ended his article with an amusing, prayerful, spiteful sentence -- "Don't let it snow, don't let it snow, don't let it snow."

Gee, I thought, as I put away the magazine, I would have written something about competition -- the mind and its instinct fears -- the courage it takes to transform a body and its reflexes into a winning machine. And it occurred to me that the 60-year-old Hitchens must have had athletic dreams once upon a time -- he's blaming what he couldn't do, on the powers that be.

I looked him up, and learned he's an ardent admirer of George Orwell, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson, and renowned for his excoriating critiques of Mother Teresa, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Henry Kissinger, among others. Also Forbes Magazine lists Christopher Hitchens as "one of the 25 most influential liberals in the U.S. media."

Oops, I'm thinking ... I'm attacking a famous attacker for seizing upon what he dislikes, and he's just doing his thing.

Reading more about Hitchens, I came across an exceptionally nasty, incisive commentary by another very famous columnist, Mark Steyn -- wow -- another famous intellectual writer who was writing about what I was writing about'

Steyn was lambasting, destroying everyone connected to the story of the Underwear Bomber ... whom he calls the "pantybomber" (hinting, and sort of tinting Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab as a homosexual).

I can't do justice to the tour de force, brilliant, nasty, ugly, scratching, stabbing, killer style of Steyn -- his poisonously sardonic insights, his borderline "sophomoric" distortions, and his use of big words, like "logorrheic."

I didn't want to look it up, so I read another page -- then, went back and looked it up, and learned it means "overly, extremely loquacious."

Annoyed with myself for being impressed, admiring and disliking what I read, I read on and learned ... ah ha! Steyn occasionally substitutes for Russ Limbaugh and Sean Hannity -- major bad guys in my No-fly, Cover- Your-Ears list.

Steyn is better (worse) than Hitchens. Both keep the reader wanting to read on, like page-turner, best-selling writers.

Gee, I was riveted to what these guys write ... should I imitate them?

NO! I can't! I don't have the background. Anyhow, I see villains, usually, with a touch of empathy ... pity...

Yes, I admire the style, the free mingling of introspective remarks and asides, as if the writer is reporting what the world sees, and letting you know that he finds it ridiculous, nonsensical.

So thanks, but no thanks, Christopher Hitchens and Mark Steyn -- you amused and entertained me, but your vision is yellowed, decayed by disillusion. I'd like to read something you write about what you love, admire, respect.
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