The passing Thursday of Christopher Hitchens, at age 62 from cancer, reminded me of one of his finest moments, which occurred on a Friday night five-and-a-half years ago when he gave the finger to the pretentious, left-wing Los Angeles studio audience of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher.
As he laid out the case for how it’s Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who wants World War Three, not George W. Bush, Hitchens cited how Ahmadinejad “says the Messiah is about to come back.” Maher quipped: “So does George Bush, by the way.” That caused a loud eruption of audience applause and cheering, which led Maher to clarify: “That's not facetious.”
The crowd continued to applaud as Hitchens remarked, about those in attendance who had earlier cheered and laughed as Maher called Bush an “idiot” repeatedly: “That’s not facetious. Your audience, which will clap at apparently anything, is frivolous.” Loud oohs and groans emanated from the audience, prompting Hitchens to give them the finger as he castigated them, “F*** you, f*** you,” while the groans continued.
Vanity Fair has a video compilation of some of the best rejoinders from Hitchens.
Transcript of the relevant portion of the discussion about Iran on the Friday August 25, 2006 season premiere of the weekly HBO show aired live Friday nights at 11pm EDT/10pm CDT:
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Who wants a Third Word War? The Iranian President says that one member state of the United Nations should be wiped physically from the map with all its people. He says the United States is a Satanic power. Members of his government, named members of his government have been caught sponsoring deaths squads. He's lied, he's lied to the European Union about his nuclear program-
BILL MAHER: But you know that a lot-
HITCHENS: He says the Messiah is about to come back. Who's looking for a war here?
MAHER: So does George Bush, by the way [audience applause]. That's not facetious [audience applause continues].
HITCHENS: That's not facetious. Your audience, which will clap at apparently anything, is frivolous. [oohs and groans from audience, Hitchens gives them the finger] Fuck you, fuck you. [groans continue]
MAHER: I was just saying what the President of Iran and the President of America have in common is that they both are a little too comfortable with the idea of the world coming to an end.
HITCHENS: Cheer yourself up like that. The President has said, quite a great contrast before the podium of the Senate, I think applauded by most present, in his State of the Union address, that we support the democratic movement of the Iranian people to be free of theocracy -- not that we will impose ourselves on them, but that if they fight for it we're on their side. That seems to be the right position to take, jeer all you like.