by Matthew Hickman and Andrew Widener
© Catherine Karnow/CORBIS
Last night the world lost Christopher Hitchens, a man loathed by many and perhaps loved by more. When contemplating his imminent demise after a lifetime in smoky bar rooms debating the virtues of Western civilization, he had this to say about the way in which death came to him: "I have been taunting the Reaper into taking a free scythe in my direction and have now succumbed to something so predictable and banal that it bores even me."
Here are just a few of the memorable and controversial encounters he had with public figures across the political spectrum:
On Princess Diana and Mother Teresa: "Words to avoid this week, or perhaps any week from now on: 'idol' and 'icon.' These once meant only the show-biz versions of graven-image worship, or the cult of mortal beings. Now they mean the real thing. And spiritual and secular leaderships compete to prostrate themselves. By the way, what have we 'chosen' for our idols and icons? A simpering Bambi narcissist and a thieving, fanatical Albanian dwarf. Nice going."
On Bill Clinton:
"A racist lynching, at least three rapes, and a colonial bombing escapade of the sort that liberals used to laugh at or laugh about when Stanley Kubrick attributed it to the old military industrial complex but couldn’t face the time it really happened because it was done by their man."
On Ronald Reagan: "I only saw him once up close, which happened to be when he got a question he didn't like. Was it true that his staff in the 1980 debates had stolen President Carter's briefing book? (They had.) The famously genial grin turned into a rictus of senile fury: I was looking at a cruel and stupid lizard."
On Michael Moore and Fahrenheit 9/11: "To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness."
On Henry Kissinger: "He was a one man international rolling crime wave."
On Jerry Falwell: "The discovery of the carcass of Jerry Falwell on the floor of an obscure office in Virginia has almost zero significance, except perhaps for two categories of the species labeled 'credulous idiot.' The first such category consists of those who expected Falwell (and themselves) to be bodily raptured out of the biosphere and assumed into the heavens, leaving pilotless planes and driverless trucks and taxis to crash with their innocent victims as collateral damage. This group is so stupid and uncultured that it may perhaps be forgiven. It is so far 'left behind' that almost its only pleasure is to gloat at the idea of others being abandoned in the same condition."
On jihadists: "They wish to be martyrs—we should be willing to help."
And finally: "Whenever I hear some bigmouth in Washington or the Christian heartland banging on about the evils of sodomy or whatever, I mentally enter his name in my notebook and contentedly set my watch. Sooner rather than later, he will be discovered down on his weary and well-worn old knees in some dreary motel or latrine, with an expired Visa card, having tried to pay well over the odds to be peed upon by some Apache transvestite."
See Also: 10 Not-So-Famous People We Lost in 2011