Christopher Hitchens attacks Gore Vidal for being a 'crackpot'
Former protégé takes America's great man of letters to task for adopting 9/11 conspiracy theories
Sunday 07 February 2010
As literary feuds go it has the all the hallmarks of a classic. In one corner, the journalist and polemicist Christopher Hitchens. In the other, America's great man of letters, Gore Vidal.
The latest salvo is in this month's Vanity Fair where, in an article headlined "Vidal Loco", Hitchens launches a stinging attack on Vidal, claiming that the events of 9/11 "accentuated a crackpot strain" in the author. He claims that Vidal's work after the terrorist attacks consists of "a small anthology of half-argued and half-written shock pieces [which] either insinuated or asserted that the administration had known in advance of the attacks."
"He openly says that the Bush administration was 'probably' in on the 9/11 attacks, a criminal complicity that would 'certainly fit them to a T'; that Timothy McVeigh was 'a noble boy', no more murderous than generals Patton and Eisenhower; and that 'Roosevelt saw to it that we got that war' by inciting the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor," Hitchens writes.
Vidal's reaction to the Vanity Fair article is not yet known. But yesterday, a British academic, who was also criticised by Hitchens, leapt to the author's defence. Dr Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, of Sussex University, described Hitchens' attack as "extraordinarily vitriolic". He claimed there was a "sense of jealousy he never did quite get to Gore's level of literary flair and his almost iconic status. It does seem like a kind of bizarre personal vendetta being carried out on the pages of Vanity Fair, replete with factual inaccuracies and not very much substance."
Dr Ahmed, director of the London-based think tank the Institute for Policy Research and Development, claimed Hitchens failed to contextualise Vidal's comments.
"Hitchens has taken them very literally and Gore is being much more playful and much more provocative," Dr Ahmed said.
Vidal was not trying to absolve the Oklahoma City bomber, McVeigh, he added, but to make people think critically.
Hitchens referred to Dr Ahmed, who wrote The War on Freedom, used by the 9/11 Commission, in the article as a "risible individual wedded to half-baked conspiracy-mongering". Dr Ahmed said he had not suggested there was a conspiracy, rather a "dereliction of duty", and that he used the word "complicity" in a legal sense.
Hitchens wrote that he did not mind Vidal rewriting their personal history, after the American publicly distanced himself from Hitchens, but he did object "to the crank-revisionist and denialist history he is now peddling about everything else".
Hitchens claims in the article that Vidal once wrote to him offering to nominate him as his "dauphin". Such was Hitchens' admiration for Vidal that he asked to use a letter from the 85-year-old author on the jacket of his books. But since the 9/11 attacks he has stopped the practice.
But last October, Vidal told a New York audience: "Hitchens identified himself for many years as the heir to me ... unfortunately, for him, I didn't die."
Hitchens was unavailable for comment.
- 2 Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
- 3 Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
Caitlyn Jenner car crash: Driver who died in collision sued by surviving passengers for $18.5m
Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Turkey duped the US, and Isis reaps rewards
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...
£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...
£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...
£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...