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Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
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Hitchens vs Blair Kindle Edition
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A short read, it's the transcript of a debate between former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and writer/journalist Christopher Hitchens, who at the time had already been diagnosed with cancer.
Both are skilled speakers in their own rights, though Hitchens easily outclasses Blair on every point without (unfortunately in my opinion) going for the jugular as he does in many interviews. He made me smile several times, I also found myself in awe at the beautiful phrasing he came out with, and the construction of some of his arguments. And yet I've seen him better.
Blair is certainly adequate but has no argument that convinces, repeating to the end that though yes, religion has done harm, so have other organisations, but yes it has also done some good. His examples of Rwanda and Northern Ireland also backfired on him.
I would have liked commentary on the debate at the end, for context and further thought. And there are two further interviews with the participants, each talking to an interviewer about religion more generally.
The end of the transcript made me smile - seeing the result with no comment as to the audience poll of how many were persuaded by each debater. No further comment needed.
Every time I'm reminded of Hitchens I'm saddened that such an eloquent man shortened his own life and deprived the world of such sense. His arguments here on the empowerment of women being the best chance we have for change makes perfect sense. His phrase on the essence of religion will also stick with me: "created sick and then ordered to be well."
A very useful little volume.
And I found one of the enduring memories I had after I read this book is of the Comradely warmth expressed by Christopher Hitchens towards Blair towards the end of the debate (pages 49-52) and the reciprocation of this. How refreshing this is when compared to Hitchens' bitter debate with Galloway or Blair's fractious relations with Gordon Brown!
This aside I found this a fascinating debate and can honestly say that I rarely enjoyed a polemical text more. Certainly as a debate it outclasses anything Hansard or C-SPAN has to offer shows two highly skilled orators skillfully marshall their arguments.
Of course there is always going to be a winner and, although I shan't plot-spoil, Hitchens is the better man in this field but only just. Tony Blair may not be as used to debating religion, but he still makes good use of language in conveying his argument (e.g. in saying "my point is very simple...").
Rather surprisingly Blair does also have some convincing arguments in favour of religion being a force for good. For instance he compares it to politics and journalism and how there is always bad eggs in all fields and even Nicky Gumbel's work Searching Issues (Alpha) is not quite as crisp as Blair's arguments.
Sadly the old Hitler/ Stalin/ Mao arguments do rear their ugly heads, but only briefly and there is no long boring diversions into other fields.
Overall, I was highly impressed and thought it was well worth pre-ordering and waiting the 2 weeks for it to come to the UK. If you've read Hitchens and are at all worried that he is losing it then don't worry - he still knows his beans.
And if you haven't read Blair's Memoirs or are worried that he'll just bang on about Iraq then don't worry - it doesn't and it this debate provides a good taster of what the memoirs are like.
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Hitchens has courage Blair doesn't.
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