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April 4, 2002

Kim Newman got it right Christopher Hitchens reminds us just what the dear old Queen Mother actually was: an unpleasant, rather ruthless, casually anti-Semitic defender of hereditary privilege, who worked as hard as she could in the 1930s to keep the appeasers in office and Churchill out. “In other words, if the sweet old lady had had her way, there would have been no ‘finest hour’ for her to illumine; no opportunity of touring bombed-out East Enders and pearly queens; no victory parades or regimental colours for her to patronise.”
It’s two decades and more since we learnt of the fate of the Queen Mother’s nieces, Katherine and Nerissa Bowes-Lyon who, both born somewhat retarded, were first covertly immured in a mental institution and then falsely reported—via the agency of Burke’s Peerage—as having died. This is the sort of practice that one associates with the court of a demented tsar, or with the more antique barbarities of Glamis Castle, the Queen Mother’s birthplace. However, there is also a sense in which such callous culling is inseparable from the hereditary principle. The breeding of a “master family” is not much different in principle from the breeding of a master race; it involves much the same combination of the ridiculous and the sinister, and is every bit as incompatible with democracy and civilisation.
But she was such a nice old lady.

Except, well, not. [09:34 AM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Kim Newman got it right:

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2002, 10:16 PM:

Sigh.aaI can think of no higher accolade that to be on the far end of Hitchen's attack.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2002, 10:22 PM:

Perhaps you'd like to address the factual basis of some of Hitchens's comments, then.

Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2002, 10:33 PM:

Hitchens is sometimes very wrong, but he's been right about a lot of things, too. He was right about Mother Theresa and he's right about the Queen Mum. (Of course, he still has his head up his jacksee on Clinton.)

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2002, 10:42 PM:

No. I wouldn't. He may well be exactly right. However, his attacks on other people and things, notably the former president and the publishing house just down the hall from you, have left me noticing a stark pattern -- if Hitchen's hates someone, I'd probably like them, and the more they hate them, the more I'd probably like them.aaThe fact that he's only fired a couple of broadsides at the QM shows I'd probably dislike her. But, you know, I can forgive her for wanting "peace in our time." After watching your brother, and almost a million others of the Empire die in the Great War, I can understand how you'd be against entering another war. I further note that Mr. Hitchens forgets the QM refused to be evacuated during the war -- "The children will not leave unless I do. I shall not leave unless their father does, and the King will not leave the country in any circumstances whatsoever", and, after Buckingham Palace was hit. -- "I can now look the East End in the face." I wonder how many modern leaders would stay in 10 Downing, 1600 Pennsylvania, or the equivalent, while the bombers attack? Her visits to various parts of shattered London were one of the more important morale boosting efforts of the war.aaShe wasn't a perfect person, and very possible was a bad one. She was brought up to belive the duty of a royal was to act as a royal -- something that I find incomprehensible (not, please, the exact definiton.) But if she's pissed off Christopher Hitchens, I'm all for her. Hitchen's one MO is attack, attack, attack. I find that unacceptable, even in the few instances, such as this one, where the allegations may be substantially true.aaThat's my beef with him, with you, and hell, with bloggers.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2002, 10:44 PM:

Not unlike some other people who alternate pungent rationality with evident insanity when anyone named Clinton is mentioned. Sometimes I wonder whether medical science won't eventually diagnose this as a rhetorical disease. The Clinton Vapors. (Popularly known as the "Hot Springs.")

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2002, 10:54 PM:

First. My last line is poorly written. Please read, instead.aa"That's my beef with him, with you citing him, and with bloggers in general citing him and similar posts." aaSecondly, I don't buy the "Clinton Vapors." Wrong is wrong. I don't consider Reagan a good person because he made air travel cheap, and I don't consider Hitchen worth acknowledgement, even when he's right.aaIf he *ever* showed one gram of remorse, I'd forgive him. He has not, and will not, and if given the choice of riding to hell with him or George Wallace, I'd pick Wallace. (but not by much.)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2002, 10:58 PM:

Erik crossposted. Sorry, but "if she's pissed off Christopher Hitchens, I'm all for her" is the essence of the kind of thinking I'm against.aaThe very heart of what's wrong with public discourse, both in the US and internationally, is the idea that the speaker's identity and affiliations matter more than the truth of the statement. It's a very human, very understandable attitude to take. In moderate doses, it doesn't make us totalitarians. But it's where totalitarianism begins.

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2002, 11:23 PM:

To a great extent, I'd agree with you. Which is why I read carefully what people like John Danforth, George Mitchell, John McCain and Arlan Spector say, as well as any number of political commentators that I competely disagree with -- and a number of bloggers -- Sgt. Stryker jumps to mind, as does Steven Den Beste, though I find his idea of "ignore Arafat and the problem goes away" silly at best.aaBut there are some people who've crossed beyond the pale -- who have done things that are so wrong that I will not consider them worthy of regard at all. Ann Coulter. Brit Hume. And, of course, our dear Hitchens.aaEven if they do agree at the moment with a postion I hold. Like, frex, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother being, basically, at heart, a bad person. Though I do note that he refuses to not the many good things she did. On the whole, I think Her Majesty's soul will be found wanting. But not as wanting as Hitchens' portrays it.

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2002, 11:24 PM:

Note! Refuse to Note!aaSheesh, I'm losing the ability to communicate.

Gary Farber ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2002, 12:53 AM:

Erik, I'm looking forward to your briefs for Henry Kissinger and Mother Teresa. Have you read his books on either? Or articles? Do you *really* applaud the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of East Timorese, Erik? Could you write that accolade for Suharto, please? Do you really like him that much? Which part, the machine gunning, or the bombing? aaAs for Clinton, I think fairly well of him, and I don't share Hitchens' feelings, but a) Hitchens' opinions about Bill Clinton are approximately %.01 of his oevre, so I find judging him on that basis bizarre in the extreme, b) I find Hitchen's criticisms of Clinton more reasonable than that of many, not that that's more than damning with faint praise, I grant, given both Clintons' super-abilities to generate foam in their enemies' mouths, and c)while I think comparatively well of Bill Clinton, I hardly exempt him from sharp and vigorous criticism. aaLastly, "no higher accolade that to be on the far end of Hitchen's attack"? Really, Erik? Isn't this possibly more than a little rhetorical overkill? Or do you really find Christopher Hitchens to be the be-all and end-all of despicable, wrong-headed, vile, immoral, evil writers? He's worse than, say, Pat Buchanan, or David Duke, or Milosevic, or Ne Win, or Charles Manson, or Vladimir Zhirinovsky, or Jorg Haider, or... well, you get the idea?

Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2002, 01:04 PM:

Obligatory Dead Queen Mum Anecdote:aaI was in a panel at Helicon when the announcement was made. A bit later I ran into a rather shaken China Mieville. "I was watching TV when the screen went black," he said. "And thenasomeone said something about an important announcement. And it stayed black for three minutes, and I was, like, panicking, thinking 'oh shit, who have they nuked?' And then it turned out to be the bloody royals."aaBloody royals. Yeah, I'll drink to that -- and to a Republic. (Speaking as a subject whose tolerance has been taken for granted by the current bunch of trough-gobbling self-important elitists and their brown-nosing cronies, every time the BBC goes into 24x7 hagiography mode I grow hairs on the palms of my hands and turn into a Leninist. Bah, humbug. Old bat dies at 101 years -- film at eleven. Now can we go backato discussing important things, like Buffy re-runs and the price of tea?)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2002, 01:15 PM:

"every time the BBC goes into 24x7 hagiography mode I grow hairs on the palms of my hands and turn into a Leninist"aaYeah, what he said.