One wit spots another

Terry Eagleton has at least one fan anyway.

Eagleton…is determined not to commit the same elementary errors he ascribes to such foes as biologist Richard Dawkins and political journalist Christopher Hitchens. (Those two, collectively dubbed “Ditchkins” by Eagleton, are the self-appointed leaders of public atheism and the authors of bestselling books on the subject, Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” and Hitchens’ “God Is Not Great.”)

He gets it right by saying Eagleton ascribes these elementary errors, but then he promptly labels Dawkins and Hitchens ‘foes’ – why are they foes? Because Eagleton doesn’t like what they’ve written. That doesn’t really make them his foes, it just makes them people he is quarreling with. ‘Foes’ is more ascribing. And then, what is that ‘self-appointed leaders of public atheism’ doing there? They’re not self-appointed leaders of anything; they wrote books about something. Eagleton writes books about things; now he is busy ascribing things to ‘foes’; does that make him a self-appointed leader of public anti-Ditchkinsism? Not particularly. We’re all allowed to write books without being labeled self-appointed leaders of something or other. (And this ‘Ditchkins’ thing…that’s just childish.)

[Eagleton] freely admits that what Christian doctrine teaches about the universe and the fate of man may not be true, or even plausible. But as he then puts it, “Critics of the most enduring form of popular culture in human history have a moral obligation to confront that case at its most persuasive, rather than grabbing themselves a victory on the cheap by savaging it as so much garbage and gobbledygook.”

That’s just populist bullying. Why do they? Why can’t critics of any form of popular culture – no matter how enduring, how popular, how ‘authentic,’ how anything you like – just criticize whatever they think is bad about it? In argument it’s better to argue with the strongest case, but in criticism, you can go after the worst stuff, because that’s your point. There’s no ‘moral obligation’ to be deferential to the most enduring form of popular culture in human history; how pompous to say there is.

Still, attacking them in broad and often hilarious strokes – he depicts Dawkins as a tweedy, cloistered Oxford don sneering at the credulous nature of the common people, and Hitchens as a bootlicking neocon propagandist and secular jihadist – lends his book considerable entertainment value.

Hilarious? That’s hilarious? Oookay, if that’s the taste level, I won’t bother reading any more.

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