Friday, 16 December 2011

The Hitch on snitches

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011)
The death of Christopher Hitchens earlier today robbed the world of one of journalism's most eloquent and articulate voices. Here he is speaking about the nanny state in 2004...

When the complete ban on smoking in all public places was enacted in California, I called up the assemblyman who wrote the legislation and I said: “I’ve just discovered that bars are not going to be able to turn themselves into a club for the evening and charge a buck for admission for people who want to have a cigarette. You won’t be able to have a private club. You won’t even be able to have a smoke-easy, if you will, in California.”

And he said, “That’s right.”

I said, “Well, how can you possibly justify that?”

And he said, “Well, it’s to protect the staff. It’s labor protection legislation. We don’t want someone who doesn’t want to smoke, who doesn’t like it, having to work in a smoky bar.”

And I said, “You don’t think that if there were bars that allowed it and bars that forbade it, that, sooner or later people would apply for the jobs they preferred, and it would sort of shake out?”

He replied, “No. We could not make that assumption.”

So we have to postulate the existence, if you will, of a nonexistent person in a nonexistent dilemma: the person who can find only one job, and that job is as barkeep in a smoking bar. This person must be held to exist, though he or she is notional. But everyone who actually does exist must act as if this person is real.

...The worst part is that the staff has to become the enforcers. The waitresses have to become the enforcers. The maitre d’ has to become the enforcer. He has to act as the mayor’s representative. Because it’s he who is going to be fined, not you. If you break the law in his bar, he is going to have to pay.

So everyone is made into a snitch. Everyone is made into an enforcer. And everyone is working for the government. And all of this in the name of our health.

Now, I was very depressed by the way that this argument was conducted. There were people who stuck up for the idea that maybe there should be a bit of smoking allowed here and there. But they all said it was a matter of the revenue of the bars and the restaurants. That was the way the New York Times phrased it.

In no forum did I read: “Well, is there a question of liberty involved here at all? Is there a matter of freedom? Is there a matter of taste? Is there a matter of the relationship of citizens to one another?”

And something about it made me worry and makes me worry still. The old slogan of the anarchist left used to be that the problem is not those who have the will to command. They will always be there, and we feel we understand where the authoritarians come from. The problem is the will to obey. The problem is the people who want to be pushed around, the people who want to be taken care of, the people who want to be a part of it all, the people who want to be working for a big protective brother.

Read the full article here.


Ann W. said...

Thanks Chris, what an amazing read, what an amazing and insightful man Christopher Hitchens was.......

Jean said...

Today's Cato podcast contains some comments from Hitchens about Bloomberg's nanny state:

Richard Allan said...

I remember an article of his on Upton Sinclair where he essentially argued the exact opposite - ie. that an army of snitches was necessary to protect workers' rights. Did he redact this view?

Smoking Hot said...

Ah yes, but only if the snitches believe they are 'safe'. I know a certain MC clubhouse where smoking continues to this day. Nobody has ever been round to say 'your busted'. The image and myths that have seen all MC clubs portrayed as psychopathic gangsters turned out to be a blessing in disguise

Xopher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Xopher said...

Overheard tonight from an oldie in the pub - 'It's the quality of life that's important'.
Effing shame that our 'betters' concentrate on their own area of righteousness rather than the bigger picture.
The more legislation the more victims and the more invasions into our contentment = more pills to solve the problem of us becoming more and more pissed off.
Message to the medical professionals --- Do your job properly - reduce waiting lists and mend us when we're broken but stop demanding legislation when pretending you have any interest in us - you're more interested in status.
To paraphrase - It's the quality not the size that matters.

Wiel said...

Salman Rushdie @ Twitter today said:

Goodbye, my beloved friend. A great voice falls silent. A great heart stops. Christopher Hitchens, April 13, 1949-December 15, 2011.

Anonymous said...

Yes Richard Allan, Hitchens transformed from extreme left wing to an independent free thinking adult and was a better man / journalist for it. We all have the ability to grow unfortunately far too many opt for the illusionsry safety and comfort of conformity.

Spartan said...

Chris, you're being spammed. Zaphod, Prop are not them. The dipshit is doing this all over the smoking blogs. He started at Taking Liberties and Patsy's place. He went under Dickie Doubleday but now has MPD.

Richard Allan said...

But Anon, his article on Upton Sinclair was written in 2002. Mighty quick turnaround if that's the case. Post-9/11 as well.

Pat Nurse MA said...

Chris - please be aware there is someone impersonating me and others on blogs.

I'm at my wits end and have reported him to the police today for harassment and I am being taken seriously.

Should any comment allegedly from me come through, and it doesn't sound like me, please keep a copy that may be useful in my complaint.

anne milton said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jean said...

Even though he's gone
his memory still remains in our hearts.
His smile and face will never fade.
We think of him as we go on each day.
The good times we remember
and the days spent together at the butchers and you
will be in our memories forever.
So when you start to get down
and you really want to cry
just think of the fun times
and don't wonder why.
Just leave it at that
and know he's better now.
He's in a better place.
His heart was right with God.
So peter we love you
and we miss you so much
but we know you're much happier.
So watch over us and make sure we're okay
and we will see you again someday.

Anonymous said...

A new age is dawning my friends an age not unlike hemmingways. A new age of free thinking,freedom and ideas based upon factual truths,where independence of mind are the rule! Hitchens helped win that comming of age freedom from nannys grasp!