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Hitchens vs. Hitchens By: guardian.co.uk
The Guardian | Friday, June 03, 2005


Pugnacious commentators Christopher and Peter Hitchens have not spoken to each other since a row over a joke about Stalinism four years ago. Here is an extended transcript of their encounter at the Hay literary festival when they came together under the auspices of a special live edition of G2 to discuss sibling rivalry, politics and reconciliation. Just don't ask them to shake hands...

Ian Katz (Guardian features editor): I want to start by asking you Christopher to just tell me what this row was about.

CH: You want to know what the joke was as well?

IK: We have to have the joke.

CH: When I was at Oxford I had a friend called Fran Hazelton who was an actress at the time, and she was also, which was quite rare in those days, a member of the Communist party, which would have meant she was one of the most rightwing people at the university at that point (I'm talking about mid-1968), a party whose politics were almost too reactionary to bother with. I should mention, and I'll mention it now, that Fran Hazelton went on to found a thing called the Campaign Against Repression of Democratic Rights in Iraq, which is a communist organisation saying the right things about Saddam Hussein, good girl... But, when the party split over the invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968, she told me she'd had a row with her father - her father who'd served in the Communist party said one should never criticise the party. And she'd said her father had said, 'Prague, I don't care about Prague. I won't be happy till I see the Red Army watering its horses in the Thames. In Hendon I think he said, or somewhere like that. I thought it was quite funny, and must have told it in the hearing of Peter, and I think my sister-in-law too, because a week after September 11 when I'm up to here with fuckwits in the United States who are saying Chomskyian things - the kind of crap you get in the Guardian all the time, from Seamus Milne and Jonathan Steele and Richard Gott and all those other wankers and fascist sympathisers, a disgrace to journalism I might add - up to here with their American cousins... and what I don't need, is to get [in] the Spectator my brother recalling, 'I don't see why Christopher has become so pro-American; I can remember when he said he wouldn't be happy until he saw the Red Army watering its horses in the Thames.' And I thought, well what I thought was 'Fuck you'. I don't need this, I don't need from a brother who might be assumed to know. It shouldn't really have been a question of his word versus mine, because I submit to you ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, I've been banging on in print about politics more or less every day now for about 40 years, if those were my opinions of the Soviet Union it would have become known somehow. To the contrary, when Mr Galloway called me a Trotskyist or ex-Trotskyist, among other things, I thought that was the point of what he was saying because here is a man who differs with me on what is a very central thing: he says that the most unhappy day of his life was the collapse of the Soviet Union, and for me that was one of the happier ones. I think if I went on any more I'd be doing what the Church of England calls a work of supererogation.

IK: Peter, I see you've downed your whole glass of non-alcoholic drink in preparation for the case for the defence, did you falsely characterise your brother as a Stalinist?

PH: No. I think sometimes that Christopher is a great loss to the Foreign Office, and he's actually made out that I've withdrawn a statement that I never made. I never said he was a Stalinist. The point about the joke was - and the reason why no one laughed is because he didn't actually give it the full delivery today - I don't want to start all this again... You didn't actually give it the full delivery.

CH: A joke is a very serious thing

PH: A joke as you rightly say is a very serious thing, and they should be taken much more seriously than they are. That evening, in our small house in Oxford - this is so long ago - we were discussing medium range United States. The argument was about whether there was any justification for having cruise missiles based in Britain, and my view was that there was such a justification because the Soviet Union seemed to present a major diplomatic threat to western Europe, which would be neutralised if cruise missiles existed. That was the argument. I just give you that as background, nothing to do with Stalinism, though Stalinism had formed part of the earlier part of the conversation, we can get on to that if you want to. It was at that point, when we all get tired of reason sometimes, when we're sick of the subject and we don't particularly want to say anything else about it, but we still say something that's important. And what he said was, 'I don't care if the Red Army waters its horses in... and there was a pause here... Hendon. Not the Thames, in Hendon. It was meant as both a dismissal...

CH: (interrupts): Is Hendon or is it not on the Thames?

IK: It is not on the Thames.

PH: Hendon's vice in the eyes of people of your fashion is that it's suburb, and therefore bad, and it contains half-timbered, fake Tudor houses and people who wash their cars... that's why I think it was at the end of your joke. It didn't convey to me that you were a Stalinist, though we had earlier on discussed the makeup of the '36 constitution of the soviet union, and its implications for the argument about whether the evils of Stalin and the evils of Hitler could be compared (but it's more complicated than that, and couldn't possibly bring us to the conclusion that you or I were a Stalinist). What you were saying was that you didn't care. That ultimately that argument wasn't of any interest to you. At the time you were very busy supporting the unilateral disarmament of the Western democracies in the face of the most heavily armed totalitarian power that had ever existed . And I thought you were wrong. And I still do. But what was interesting about it in September 2001, was that you had transferred your affections to the United States. And the point that I was trying to make was that - partly because you were altered, as everybody alters, in such periods; but also, because the United States had altered, and had become from having been to some extent the arsenal of reaction (which is why I liked it) - [the US] had instead become a sort of multicultural, liberal global force which you rather more approved of. And Stalinism wasn't mentioned. You mentioned Stalinism. I don't want to reignite this row, but if we're going to have the discussion analysed, and the joke analysed, that's the reason I why thought it was important, and still do.

CH: The Red Army was only a mounted force come to think of it, when its commander was Leon Trotsky. It hasn't been that equine lately. So of course there are historical timelines involved. It's a very eloquent clarification but I think if someone is deemed to have said that they'd rather see the Red Army in England than out of Czechoslovakia, or in England at all, then the implication is that one is at least a communist sympathiser. And what annoyed me, I think, is that I kept reading this reference sourced to blood, a bro, in the reactionary press in the United States.

PH: You should have done what you do in almost any other occasion when you disagree with someone, you should have argued about it, and then we would have reached this position much earlier. Silence is never an answer to anything.

CH: I wanted it to mature in the cask, and actually I wasn't exactly keeping quiet at that time. I was rather heavily engaged.

IK: Did you engage in any way with this? Did you write to Peter, ring Peter?

CH: I wrote a rude thing about him which I regret now.

IK: What did you say?

CH: I'm not going to tell you; [I wrote it] in replying to a person in Commentary, which is a very rightwing monthly magazine in America, who had used him [Peter] as the authority for the charge that I was or had been a communist. And I imagined that he'd see it, which he did, and he replied. And to my distress and irritation they printed his letter, which meant that it would either go on forever or I would have to go on and do other things.

IK: So what led you to extend the tentative olive branch [in a recent Vanity Fair column by Christopher]?

CH: Well my editor [Graydon Carter] was having lunch with me in Washington the other day, after we'd done a debate about his book, his anti-Bush book, on the Tim Russert show, and we chatted about what we might do for future pieces. And he expressed a big interest in a piece about fratricide, he'd become interested in it as subject, and he said would I like to write about it and I thought I'll do more than that... I did not think, 'Oh so there is a God,' because nothing makes me think that but I said I probably could do you a piece on that actually, yes, because I knew I could, I'm interested in it. The other day I was at Union College in upstate New York to give a lecture, and the dinner was at the faculty club. You file past the portraits: at this college were at the same time the secretary of state of the United States and of the Confederacy - the only time America's had two secretaries of state and they were both from this college. You see all these pictures, you line up, you shake the professors' hands, they greet you. And the last guy in the line, they said this is Dr Kaczynski, and I said, 'Very nice to meet you', and passed on to dinner, gave the lecture, got in the car, got as far as the train station and I thought... It's Kaczynski, it's the Unabomber's brother. This is the brother that turned the Unabomber in. Because the police couldn't make head nor tail of Ted Kaczynski's manifestos and scribblings, but when the brother saw the third one he said, 'I know who this is, and now what am I going to do?' And so he picked up the phone, called the FBI. So I really missed a chance with him. He'd have been great in the piece. I realised as I was going through the other examples in that I had, I can't really honestly leave myself out of it. I also thought, it's enough already, it's high time. And I have a nephew, who I haven't seen, thanks to Peter's philoprogenitive arrangements. A young nephew by the name of Jonathan. And I thought, this is silly really, so I'd better do a climb down of some sort disguised as a witty reassertion of my principles.

IK: Where are we? Are we at final-stage negotiations? Have we got a road map? What's the state of affairs?

PH: Well as long as you are relatively careful I think we are at the stage of arranging a territorial distribution, it's OK, just don't make us start again.

IK: We'll leave that there for the moment. You said earlier on that what Christopher should have done is argue it out, like he would have with anyone else, because that's what you do. Are the rules of engagement different when it's your brother you're arguing with? Do criticisms, jokes, pointed jokes like that have a sting that's different when it's blood?

PH: Well I suppose they do if they're personal, but I don't see why they should if they're political.

CH: That's quite right, but when Peter was Washington for his newspaper and C-SPAN cable and other shows worked out that they could get a crossfire together with one flick of the Rolodex to H. And I still get people coming up to me in airports saying, when are you going to go on with your brother again? People love to see it. And we do our disagreements with what I would describe as a fraternal manner. The difference this time is that I took it as an insult, but it was also something that only a brother could have known, or could claim to know. So it wasn't what was said, as it were, it was how it was acquired that annoyed me. And we've had much bigger disagreements that that. In fact for dialectical purposes, Peter's position is fantastically helpful to me, as I hope mine might be to him, because it reminds me of what the Guardian helps to conceal from most people, which is that this is not a left/right split about the wars of intervention and regime change, it's perfectly right that those who are extremely conservative should be the main opponents of it, as they are and always have been in the United States. Critics and opponents of the war and people who have not done it and who are still opposed to it, include Bush Sr, the Kissinger faction - the most reactionary group in America - rivalled possibly by the Patrick Buchanan isolationist, rightist, anti-Israel group who were also opposed to the war with fantastic violence. As are all the extreme right here [in the UK] and as we understood from Mr Howard's recent performances. His ostensible Conservative support for the war was neither sincere nor genuine nor consistent. But I think it's very clarifying to find that I'm doing what I'm supposed to do, which is saying, Yes, I'm for change and the reactionaries are against. Rather than people saying that by supporting regime change, by going to war with the horrible and indefensible status quo, one is joining the camp of reaction - an absurd position to be in.

IK: Can I just go back to what you said Peter in your characterisation of the original conversation that spawned the telling of the joke? You were sitting around your kitchen table and talking about middle-range nuclear missiles, the 1936 constitution of Russia - it's a wonderful picture of a Hitchens family dinner. Was it always like that when you were growing up as kids, did politics infuse everything in the Hitchens family home?

PH: Erm, no. I don't want to go too much into this, but I don't think really politics engaged us until - oh - until Christopher decided that socialism was the thing that he really believed in, and brought that back to what had been a pretty conventional English middle-class sort of service home. He was about 14 or 15 at the time. And there are some wonderful pictures that I've lost of him standing as a Labour candidate in the school elections

CH: I only just beat the Communist guy. Yes, that would be my memory, too, and Peter and I went together on the march from Aldermaston to London in 1966 I remember, and we were both in different times and in different towns members of the International Socialists. I think he may have stayed in longer than I did. I was never quite sure when I finally left. It took a while. I was very, very good at getting people to join and I couldn't when I left get anyone to leave with me. They're still in there somewhere, so I haven't been very good for them have I? It's a great credit to our father, who was very conservative, that he never attempted to inculcate any politics into either of us. There were no heretical positions in the family. The real difference between Peter and myself concerns the belief in the supernatural. I'm a materialist and he attributes his presence here to a divine plan.

IK: Were you born a materialist?

CH: Well I think I may have been because I remember thinking it was nonsense, and then thinking it was sinister nonsense, quite young. It still is a big division. If someone says to me, 'We can be pals because I believe in liberation theology,' I say 'No we can't. If you can't recognise a contradiction in terms when you see one, no.' I can't stand anyone who believes in God, who invokes the divinity, or who is a person of faith. I mean that to me is a horrible repulsive thing.

IK: Peter, when did your belief kick in, when did it become an issue between you?

PH: Oh, it's never been an issue. I returned as it were to the Anglicanism of my childhood. Such as it was - it wasn't particularly strong: one has some background music of Hymns Ancient & Modern and the King James Bible, but not very much more than that. I'm probably keener about it now than I was then. I suppose [I returned] in my early 30s when people sometimes do, when various things start happening. As an issue between us I think he overestimates the issue. He has several faiths. He has the faith I think of Darwinism, which is just like Christianity an unproven and unprovable theory, which you can believe in if you want because you prefer that arrangement of the universe. I happen to think the arrangement of the universe based on the belief in intelligent design is more tolerable both morally and aesthetically, but he prefers another. I dislike only the attitude of the atheist that his is not a faith, cause it is. I have absolutely no disgust or anger at anybody who disagrees with me about that. I'm much more worried by people who are indifferent to the question.

CH: Ah, well I agree with that.

PH: There may be many things to be said against atheism - I'm not an atheist anyway, I'm an anti-theist. It would be horrible if it were true that we were designed and then created and then continuously supervised throughout all our lives waking and sleeping and then continue to be supervised after our deaths - if that were true, it would be horrible. I'm very glad there's absolutely no evidence for it at all. It would be like living in a celestial North Korea. You can't defect from North Korea but at least you can die. With monotheism they won't let you die and get away from them. It's the wish to be a slave. Who wants that to be true? It's demanding the servile condition. I'll give you a hint of how much I don't like it. We don't need to go regularly to chant a liturgy or a mantra and be reinforced by a priest. We obviously absolutely don't need it. It's the conclusion to which any reasoning, thinking person can come and increasing numbers do. It doesn't put you in conflict with objective reality all the time or under the control of a supposedly spiritual leadership. Peter said one prefers to think Darwin is right. No, one takes the facts and examines them. The fact that one's appearance on earth is a random process conditioned by evolution and will end in extinction isn't a welcome conclusion. It's just an inescapable one, and to be in denial about it is odd. And Darwinism is not the theory of evolution. It is a theory of evolution. The quarrel between say Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould, two of the greatest of biologists and palaeontologists, about punctuated evolution shows there is a great deal to argue about and no one disputes that we have evolved. It's in the fossil record.

PH: It actually isn't proven. It is a choice. That's the important thing that you choose to believe it. Your choice may be unwelcome to you and my choice my be equally unwelcome to me, but it's one that you take as a matter of preference. There are many different forms of religion. Christopher in his latest contribution to Slate talks about something called 'serious Islam' which came as something of a shock to me after Islamofascism, but I think there are different forms of religion. And I happen think that the combination of scripture, reason and tradition which is at the heart of serious Anglicanism is both appealing, constructive, and actually leads on to a much greater exercise in liberty than that which tends to result from the actions of political idealists who want to load us with identity cards and put us in North Koreas. And I would much prefer a world governed by conscience than a world governed by idealists who think they know best about how we should run our lives. And conscience is the governor of a world where God is sovereign. It's an immense argument, as I say. For him to dismiss my position or for me to dismiss his, would be wrong. I don't dismiss his. I'm worried by it, I think about it a lot, I would be idle to say it didn't have any strengths. I just prefer mine.

Female audience member: Excuse me. I'm not usually awkward at all but I'm sitting here and we're asked not to smoke. And I don't like being in a room where smoking is going on.

CH: Well you don't have to stay darling, do you? I'm working here and I'm your guest, OK? And this is what I'm like; nobody has to like it.

IK: Would you just stub that one out?

CH: No. I cleared it with the festival a long time ago. They let me do it.

FAM: We should all be allowed to smoke then.

CH: Fair enough. I wouldn't object. It might get pretty nasty though. I have a privileged position here, I'm not just one of the audience, so it would be horrible if everyone was like me. This is my last of five gigs, I've worked very hard for the festival. I'm going from here to Heathrow airport. If anyone doesn't like it they can kiss my ass.

IK: Would anyone like to take up that challenge? (Laughter. Woman walks out.)

IK: Christopher, you've talked slightly with your tongue in your cheek about regretting the competition for your mother's attention, and you said in one interview with the Times: "Mothers aren't supposed to have favourites, are they? But boys know. And to know that your mother loves you most, more than anyone, more than your father, more than your brother which I always did know..." Did you have a firm conviction that you were favourite?

CH: No, what I was expressing there and badly, too, [was] an ambition, I hoped it was true but I am sure it was not. I don't usually use this term as a compliment but she was very even handed. Impartial. What I'm really saying there I think would be obvious to anyone who has even scanned the more accessible works of Sigmund Freud, is that had I been an only child, I could probably have handled it, to have mummy to myself and then of course to kill daddy and marry mummy. I thought I had all my ducks in a row, and suddenly to have to go to some nursing home and bring home a bundle was a shock and I may never have got over it. Took up smoking at around that time.

PH: I don't know about the parenting but there was a story, although I can't remember anything about this, of Christopher having been discovered gleefully releasing the brake of the pram in which I was lying...

CH: That's when I took up drinking...

PH: There was another occasion when Christopher was sitting on the edge of a flower bed, admiring the blooms, when he saw a sinister shadow, growing, and it was me staggering up behind him with a rake. I have no memory of that...

CH: I do! I remember that very well. I've never moved so fast in my life. What I've left out, because what everybody prefers in some way to talk about is mama, is the personality of our father, who was not a very assertive person, but a very determined one, and very modest and stern. He'd had a very long and bitter war in the Royal Navy, after having been brought up in Depression conditions and post-war austerity, and had been I think disappointed by the way England had gone. He was not religious, but was a person who religion was a good thing, had come from a very strict fundamentalist Baptist home. And I was always pretty sure that Peter was much more like him than I was, and I think I suspected that he slightly preferred Peter. And I can live with that.

PH: I've no idea. It's a tribute to both of them - it never crossed my mind that there was any preference either way.

CH: I was very vigilant for any symptoms of that. I said to an audience in America the other day who were booing me for some reason I still don't understand. I said, Look, I don't want to be loved. And I thought that's the stupidest thing I've ever said - and the most false. I really very much need to be loved. I just don't want to be popular.

IK: People have often posited a competition between you, and they've generally implied that you, Peter, were living in Christopher's shadow - though you of course are columnist of the year now and one of the grandest commentators in the country...

CH: I had NO idea, well done! Bloody good! I don't belong to the prize-winning fraternity. I always get nominated, but I never win.

IK: Did it occur to you when you won that award [Peter] did you think, 'Ahh, that's one up on him!'

PH: Never. I always get asked whether I'm worried about living in my brother's shadow... you might try asking that the other way from time to time. Look, I became a pundit by accident. I really did. I had been slaving away in the engine room of the Daily Express for longer than I care to remember when suddenly a series of accidents happened and I found myself in the world of punditry, which is a wonderful place to be. But it didn't result from any kind of rivalry, and it never has.

IK: I want to ask you about a quote that has cropped up in the pages of various magazines in the conversations that you two have had around the world. [To Peter] you said to the Guardian, 'being Peter Hitchens is about not being Christopher Hitchens, which is true to some extent, as Canada is about not being the United States. But it doesn't mean I spend my whole time thinking: Christopher thinks this, how can I differentiate myself from him?' Does that mean you spend some of your time thinking about it?

PH: How could you not?... If you have a brother who has strong opinions it seems to me there would be something wrong with you if you didn't notice them and think about them, and if they differ with yours it means you've either got to take account of what he says (for instance, I've never been able to come up with a good argument against his belief that the Elgin marbles should be returned to Athens), or... I do recommend it to anybody to have a brother you disagree with, to keep you thinking and keep you considering your own positions, and it would be ludicrous to say I didn't do that.

IK: For the record, aside from the Elgin Marbles, is there anything else you agree on?

PH: I'm sure there are. But I came up with that because it's one where I've thought and thought and thought about it, and I can't think of a good argument against it [returning the Elgin marbles to Greece].

CH: There's one [point of agreement] you [Peter] don't know about perhaps, and that's what he [Peter] talks about in his book The Decline of Britain. I thought his chapter on the teaching of history as it is now practised in this country, the parody of history that's taught by people that don't themselves know any history, was extremely good. I took my wife to Hereford Cathedral last time we were both in Hay - I wanted to show her what evensong was like, because I, too, am a great admirer of the Cranmer prayer book and the King James Bible. And I was thunderstruck by the banality of the proceedings there, that the Church of England should throw away a pearl seems to me to be absolutely vandalistic. And I realised why Peter minds so much about the way the church has gone. But of course I regard it as a man-made institution not a divinely ordained one. But on the point of language and liturgy, he is dead right.

IK: We know that you disagree strongly on the war, but since September 11 there has been a strong perception that you [Christopher] have moved to the right, certainly among your fellow travellers of the past. So are you two converging?

CH: I would think not. I've tried to formulate it before that it seems to me quite right that a conservative would oppose the war [in Iraq] and it's a misrepresentation of the division over the regime change to make it left-right in the opposite way. I'm not surprised that the institutional forces of conservatism in America are generally anti-war. Vice-president Cheney's conversion to intervention of this kind is very recent and not, I think, completely sincere. But it's better than nothing. Our side won that argument very narrowly...

IK: How would you [Christopher] characterise yourself now? You were considered of the left, radical. Does that tag still fit?

CH: I had stopped calling myself a socialist when I wrote my book, Letters to a Young Contrarian, because you owe your best explanation to the young. With old comrades you can hang out and talk about the good old days, but if you're talking to your students you can't. If I couldn't recommend it [joining the socialist movement] to them, I had no business going on saying I was a socialist.

IK: Is that something you both agree on - that there's no mileage in being a socialist?

PH: Well, I'm not against other people being socialists if that's what they want to be... But it seems to me that for most of us the real issues of life are how we live in the country where we live, and that often, though internationalist idealism obviously has its virtues, in many cases it's a displacement activity. Conservatism in the United States, for instance, has now become almost entirely a matter of campaigning around the world against regimes it doesn't like. Which seems to me to be a dodge. It doesn't help the fact that [at home in the US] schools teach rubbish, marriage is breaking down, that society is [inaudible]. What I have come to value above all things is liberty and liberty of conscience, without which we don't seem to me to be able to survive. The assault on the liberty of the subject and the citizen under the guise of this war against terror seems to me to be deeply shocking. To find in my lifetime that habeas corpus and the presumption of innocence are under threat and that we're going to be compelled to carry identity cards because we will have to be responsible to the state rather than the other way round - all as consequences of this supposed idealist campaign to bring liberty to Iraq and Afghanistan - seems to me much more important than flanneling away about how you dislike oppression abroad. We can do an awful lot about combating it at home.

IK: I want to ask one last personal question, because the idea of this meeting today was more to talk about how politics and family relationships intersect. One thing that you, Christopher, have talked about in the past, is your mother's suicide when you were, I think, a student. Can I ask how formative an experience was that, and how did it change the dynamics of your family?

CH: Yes, you can, but I would rather you hadn't... I wasn't student, I was working in London. I'd just got a job with the New Statesman when I was woken up with the news that my mother had taken her own life. It was a terrible moment in my life which turned into a terrible week. I had to go, as the eldest son, to Greece. My father didn't feel up to it, he was quite old by then. And Peter had just got his first job and wasn't able to leave, and couldn't be expected to come. I was quite happy to do it, but it was a wretched time. It also coincided with a military-backed coup in Athens. There were tanks in the streets. When I first saw the Acropolis it was from my dead mother's hotel window. If I was the kind of person you might think I am, I would have written a piece about that, but I can't somehow. Although if I write a memoir I'll have to do something about it - which is one reason why I've been put off doing it. She did write a note, but it didn't clarify anything.

What it's taught me - if it's any help to anyone here who might have a distressed family member - is that you should never believe that there's such a thing as a suicidal personality and that if they don't seem that type they won't do it. The most unusual people find life unbearable. No one could have been more life-affirming than my mother.

If I was the kind of person you might think I am, I would have written a piece about that, but I haven't.

IK: Peter, I've not heard you talk about this before, do you want to add anything?

PH: No. No.

IK: Are you two friends?

PH: Not really, no. There was an old joke in East Germany that went, Are the Russians our friends or our brothers? And the answer is, they must be our brothers cause you can choose your friends. We live different lives, and mostly on different continents.

CH: The great thing about family life is that it introduces you to people you'd never otherwise meet. I've had quarrels with friends and found it as painful but not in the same way.

IK: Any final question?

Audience member: What qualities do you two you admire in your brother, that you feel you lack?

PH: Any answer I give to this will be so nauseating... better not to give it.

CH: Peter has the qualities that go to make up the kind of staunch, Cromwellian... the plain russet-coated soldier who knows what he fights for and loves what he knows. That would be my model of the kind of person I'd want to be, and I'm much more cynical and frivolous and hedonistic.

PH: That's what you think!

CH: That certainly is what I think.

IK: One more question...

Audience member: I've seen you sneaking furtive glances at each other throughout the whole event but you've never I think made eye contact. And I just wondered whether, for this final moment, whether there was a chance you could just look at each other?

CH: I don't mind giving the odd squint, but you don't know what we've just been through. We were asked by James Naughtie to do an on-radio handshake, he was so keen to promote brotherhood and human kindness, and I thought this was a handshake made for radio. So because we both recoil from this slightly sickly element of it, I think we may have to retain the quiet dignity of a stuffed moose, as Bertie says of Jeeves.

Audience member: So will you do it?

[CH and PH look briefly at each other]

PH: They want everything to be all right.

CH: They want a happy ending - that's their problem.




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