By Kyle | February 2, 2012
One of my favorite living writers on one of my favorite until-recently-living writers: Andrew Ferguson writes about Christopher Hitchens. I didn’t know until now that Hitch got the full Diana, with the obligatory mini-shrine outside his apartment building (near, I believe, what is now known as the Hinckley Hilton) consisting of notes from well-wishers, bottles of liquor, flowers, etc. The implied belief in an afterlife indicates that these well-wishers didn’t actually understand the character to whom they were wishing wellness.
I note in passing that the Apple store on the Upper West Side, in which I assume Steve Jobs never set foot, was home to a similar tribute for a couple of days last fall. The stuff seemed to embarrass the store, and employees quickly swept it away. Mourning is an odd phenomenon: Purporting to be about respect, it seems often to be about the mourner’s wish to achieve a piece of the action, a spurious connection with fame.
Anyway, says Ferguson of the media’s love for Hitchens:
The scurrilous opinions might bring him fame, but the fame would guarantee that the opinions wouldn’t matter.
I’m not quite sure this is quite right, though after 19.2 years working in the New York City media I have noticed the ways in which fame trumps all. I think it was the whole package of personality — and the baritone voice with its rounded Oxonian vowels was a huge part of it — that brought him fame. Lots of other politiical writers expressed out-there opinions; none achieved his renown.