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.
- 1 The truth about 'girl things': Three cheers for Heather Watson's honesty
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 4 Tennis fan suing Australian Open organisers for 'failing to shade spectators' during Murray match
- 5 Men behaving badly: Urinating while standing, 'manspreading' and the gendering of selfishness
Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Rob Lowe hits out at White House decision not to meet Israeli leader
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign
Winston Churchill: From accusations of anti-Semitism to the blunt refusal that led to the deaths of millions
British Muslim leaders outraged after Eric Pickles says followers of Islam should 'prove their identity'
UK terror fears: My jihadist son returned from Syria mentally scarred – now he is being ignored
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
Billy Crystal: 'Stop shoving gay sex scenes in my face'
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...
£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our Client has been the leader ...