Martin Amis on Christopher Hitchens


Whether you likes Hitchens or not, his oratory prowess truly is a force to be reckoned with. Here is his friend Martin Amis on Hitchen's ability to find the right words at the right time in almost every situation:

Christopher is one of the most terrifying rhetoricians that the world has yet seen. Lenin used to boast that his objective, in debate, was not rebuttal and then refutation: it was the "destruction" of his interlocutor. This isn't Christopher's policy – but it is his practice. Towards the very end of the last century, all the greatest chessplayers, including Garry Kasparov, began to succumb to a computer (named Deep Blue); I had the opportunity to ask two grandmasters to describe the Deep Blue experience, and they both said: "It's like a wall coming at you." In argument, Christopher is that wall. The prototype of Deep Blue was known as Deep Thought. And there's a case for calling Christopher Deep Speech. With his vast array of geohistorical references and precedents, he is almost Google-like; but Google (with, say, its 10 million "results" in 0.7 seconds) is something of an idiot savant, and Christopher's search engine is much more finely tuned. In debate, no matter what the motion, I would back him against Cicero, against Demosthenes.

The only time I have truly seen Hitchens lose a battle of words was against the masterful George Galloway in a debate in NYC in 2005 (the full video here), but Hitchens usually gives as least as good as he gets, and often leaves opponents looking like high school students at their first debate. I don't agree with much of what Hitchens has to say, but he does make debate a lot of fun.