I cam across this interview that was put into my YouTube feed (I don’t have an account but my viewing habits are still noticed by the infernal algorithm), which was a recent interview with Peter Hitchens. I find Hitchens interesting and have reviewed one of his books here and commented on an appearance he made years ago on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s execrable Q&A program. So having the time and the inclination, I watched (or rather listened while working) to it. It was disappointing in a number of ways but not for the reasons his interviewer states. He described it as a “bizarre experience” and it kind of was but again, not for the reasons he has in mind.
As I am obviously biased towards Peter Hitchens, I am going to go by what the interviewer Alex O’Connor said and not what Hitchens has said. In contrast to what happens when I usually do this, it won’t require a great length of writing or any fisking — the latter of which would be made tedious without a transcript to copy from.
I will begin by quoting at length from the opening of the video. I transcribed this myself and had to add in pauses and such as it includes a number of jump cuts but the context of the ‘Context’ portion of the video should be clear. I have also highlighted the part that will become immediately relevant.
I am writing to ask you to appear as a guest on the podcast to discuss your work and areas of interest. In particular, issues pertaining to drug decriminalisation, whether we are experiencing a moral decline in society and the influence of secularism on this question, and the state of the monarchy in the UK.
Before the interview commenced I reiterated that there are three subjects of interest. Things that he’s spoken about or written books about in the past and that I’ve also covered on my YouTube channel. And these are drug decriminilisation, God and religion and the monarchy. To which he said, “Oh the monarchy is a bit boring.” And I said, “You know what, I actually agree with you. Lets not do the monarchy.” He didn’t take the opportunity to make a similar comment on either of the other two subjects that I mentioned.
Then we sat down and the camera started rolling and I asked him if he had a hard out. That is, is there a time he needs to be done by? He said, “What time did you have in mind?” To which I responded, “Ideally, these things run for about an hour but if the conversation is particularly lively, they can be an hour and a half and I’ve done podcasts that are three hours long.” To which he said, “Well we’ll see how we do but three hours might be a bit long.” So as far as I was aware, we were about to have an hour or an hour and a half long conversation about two topics: drug decriminlisation and God and religion. I had also on my list the issue of the death penalty but that was only if we had time. That wasn’t something that I’d actually mentioned to him.
So two topics for an hour or perhaps an hour and a half if the conversation was “particularly lively”. The interview begins at the 2.22 and the interviewer jumps straight into the first topic of drug decriminalisation. He then remains on that same topic up until the time Hitchens gets fed up and exits the frame at 42:00. He does not storm out as the title of the video claims. In a conversation that was supposed to be on two topics for an hour, he spends forty minutes on the same topic even when the interviewee had signaled quite obviously that he was getting sick of it. Hitchens gives his first signal at 18:43 when the interviewer brings up the always tiresome comparison between drugs and alcohol. If you’re familiar with Hitchens (and O’Connor is), then you would know he has addressed this ad nauseam and he shouldn’t have been surprised that his response showed little patience.
At no point did the conversation on drug criminilisation become lively let alone “particularly lively”, so there was no reason for O’Connor to go past thirty minutes on this topic. I imagine I would have taken the hint to move on around the twenty minute mark. Another important point is that this was supposed to be a conversation and not a debate so it was simply irritating for O’Connor to keep bringing up counter-points. Especially ones he must know Hitchens has addressed over and over again.
So his own words at the beginning and the interview that follows demonstrate he was the one who crossed the line and not Hitchens. He spent forty minutes on a topic that the interviewee was clearly sick of after twenty in an interview that was expected to take an hour with only two topics. He then posted the interview even though the guest was clearly unhappy with it and as the video shows — for good reason.
There is no further analysis for me to offer here. The conversation wasn’t stimulating or interesting and the host was frankly boring. I might also add that Peter Hitchens is well-known to be rather prickly and I think he would claim to be guilty as charged there. Why provoke him when you had another topic to cover with only twenty minutes to go?
I had never heard of this YouTuber so I went back to his old videos and found he is one of those ‘Internet Skeptics’ all grown up. He used to go by (and still has) the handle of ‘Cosmic Skeptic’ and very typically has commentary on people like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Peter’s more famous brother whose consciousness evaporated into the great nothing ten years ago — or so he would have said before he met his Maker.
The skeptic community on YouTube began falling apart almost ten years ago when views began dropping and people started losing interest in teenagers and young adults making fun of snake handlers. There was also more importantly, something of a split when the more ideologically left-wing began going more political. This entailed holding irrational beliefs such as that a man who claims he is a woman — is a woman and vice versa. A genuine materialist would naturally have to reject this and a great many did and switched their targets from religion to the undoubtedly far more loopy social justice crowd. Some even saw the big Truth after years of rejecting it.
I am guessing O’Connor (who appears to be a vegan among other things), went with the lunatics and has now reinvented himself as an internet talk show host. His aborted interview with Hitchens has way more views than anything he has released for most of the year and it has only been up for three days as of writing. That explains his decision to post it more than his introduction in the linked video.
The only other thing I can draw from this is to use it as a reminder of how pointless it is to have “debates” with people like this. This wasn’t even a debate but he still tried to turn it into one. A man who thinks forcing his sexual organ into another man’s rectum is morally permissible or worse — an act of love — can not be reasoned out of it. So too for people who think there is nothing wrong with taking substances to deliberately addle their senses regardless of the personal or social consequences. I am not sure if O’Connor is one of the former but he is certainly one of the latter. Hitchens at some point, told O’Connor as much when referring to UK politicians but it didn’t register.
Oh and don’t bother with gammas. Ever.