Hitchens's hard-drinking, tough-talking image made him the poster-boy of the liberal intelligentsia in the UK and US. Although he appeared increasingly blimpish and ranine in his final years, Hitchens could certainly be a lot of fun. He delighted in pointing out the hypocrisy and mendacity of certain powerful individuals - such as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu (so-called 'Mother' Teresa), Henry Kissinger and Bill Clinton - and he did so with aplomb. Indeed, there is no denying that 'the Hitch' was a consummate prose stylist and a seductively sonorous public speaker. But, as Richard Seymour notes, Hitchens, for all his suave polemics, was a rather conventional sort of thinker who had 'difficulty in handling complex arguments' and who often contradicted himself. And like his champion, the British writer and comedian Stephen Fry (for who can forget Fry's attempts to reassure the British public, following the MP's expenses scandal in 2009, that all is well with liberal democracy), Hitchens abused his persuasive powers in support of the status quo.
It is often said that Hitchens drifted rightwards during his lifetime, particularly following 9/11. Yet Hitchens was always on the side of capital, starting out as a Trotskyist and ending up, only slightly more conventionally, as a liberal. He was also a consistent pro-imperialist, supporting the British invasion of the Falklands in the 1980s, the military assaults on Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the savage invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in the following decade. Indeed, Hitchens always supported US and/or British national interests at times of war, making a mockery of his claim to be an internationalist.
Moreover, as Glenn Greenwald reminds us, Hitchens's viciousness and bellicosity were remarkable. Writing about Iraq, Hitchens celebrated the ability of cluster bombs to penetrate the Korans carried by Muslims, and he admitted to being exhilarated by the 9/11 attacks, on the grounds that they provided him with an opportunity to launch his literary war against 'Islamofascism' (like a querulous teenager, Hitchens saw evidence of 'fascism' everywhere - or, to be more precise, everywhere that Western interests are threatened). He even called the Dixie Chicks 'sluts' and 'fucking fat slags' for mildly criticising the US president over his decision to attack Iraq. These are all reasons why Hitchens should be remembered, despite his literary prowess, as a rather unpleasant propagandist for the rich and powerful.